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Celebrating Ramadan Around The World

21 February 2024

Celebrating Ramadan Around The World

From a few unique traditions to delicious recipes passed down the generations, let’s take a trip around the globe.

From Iftar to Suhoor, it’s a truly magical affair

Celebrated by millions of Muslims across the globe, Ramadan marks the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a time of fasting, reflecting and altruism – as well as enjoying time-well-spent with friends, family and loved ones. Though most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, meal times after sunset (Iftar) and just before dawn (Suhoor) are a true presentation of culture and community. 

From a few unique traditions to delicious recipes passed down the generations, let’s take a trip and see how Ramadan is celebrated around the world.

Ramadan in Turkey

Filled with vibrant traditions, Ramadan (or Ramazan) in Turkey begins with drums before dawn, waking people up from sleep so they have time to eat and drink before fasting begins. Although life goes on much as before, for those who prepare the Iftar and Suhoor meals, the time between morning and evening prayers is all about prepping. 

Iftar usually begins with a light fare of olives, dates, cheeses and a sip of water. From here are a few more courses, covering fresh vegetables, stewed meats and famous sweets. One Ramadan staple, Pide, is a popular way for those practicing fasting to break their fast. This no-knead flatbread can be found in every bakery during the holy month and is fluffy, pillowy, and utterly delicious.

For Turkish Suhoor, it’s commonplace to enjoy hearty dishes to set you up for the day. Including the scrambled egg dish Menemen, the macaroni-based Makarna, and the soft, silky cheese Kaymak, all served alongside bread, fruit, tea, coffee, and pretty much whatever else your heart desires.

Ramadan in Egypt

With its rich Islamic history, Egypt’s joyous Ramadan celebration is rooted in tradition, family and community. Expect to see an even more exciting side of Egypt as the streets are decorated with fanoos (Egyptian lamps), beautiful colours, traditional clothing, and constantly shifting gatherings for Iftar. 

While the daytime hours are calmer and reflective, it’s after evening prayers that Iftar takes place, bringing friends and family together to celebrate. As it’s also a month of charity, there are often free meals given out to the poor and needy, ensuring no one goes hungry when it’s time to break fast together. 

Iftar usually starts with dates before moving on to more filling dishes, shared amongst family, friends or as part of a communal celebration. Whether that’s Mahshi, vegetables stuffed with rice, Molokheya, a nutrient-rich soup served with chicken and rice, or Rokak, pastry stuffed with minced meat. Suhoor is more subdued as observers prepare for the day ahead. These meals are lighter, including dishes like Ful Medames, made of fava beans, and Hawawshi, made with minced meat, onions and spices, grilled inside a pita bread.   

Celebrating Ramadan Around The World

Ramadan in Pakistan

In a wash of colourful decorations, Ramadan in Pakistan is a time when the giving spirit is especially joyful, and the mouth-watering aromas of traditional sweets, like Jalebi, fill the air. Pakistan’s philanthropy truly shines during the Holy Month. In the true spirit of Ramadan, its people give as generously as they can, distributing lovingly-packed Iftar boxes on almost every corner to ensure no one goes hungry. 

Pakistanis enjoy a bountiful mix during Iftar, breaking their fast with dates, black tea with cream and sugar, or Rooh Afza, a herbal rose-flavoured drink, followed by a small, often fried snack, like Samosa or Pakora. For the main course, you can see lamb or chicken curry served with fragrant basmati rice, vegetable side dishes, Halwa or Gulab Jamun, Shami kebabs, Poori (a deep-fried puffed bread).

Ramadan in UAE

In the United Arab Emirates, Ramadan is a time to focus on spiritual reflection and family bonding. The country comes alive in restaurants, Ramadan tents, and at home when people gather for Iftar and Suhoor, hosting lavish spreads of traditional cuisine. 

Preparations for Ramadan begin on Haq Al-Laila, the night of the middle of Sha’ban (the eighth month of the Islamic calendar) – a night that represents love and giving. In UAE, girls and boys dressed in traditional garb visit neighbours and sing for sweets and nuts. 

As is classic of many observing countries, Iftar starts with dates – considered ‘bread of the desert – before tucking into traditional dishes rich in flavour and nutrition. These range from the porridge-like Harees, made of wheat and meat slow-cooked overnight, Malfoof, stuffed cabbage leaves wrapped around fillings like rice and bulgur wheat, crispy Samosa, Pakora, and the Biryani-like Ouzi, serves with spiced rice and nuts. And no Iftar feast would be complete without sticky Baklava or sweet, nutty Qatayef. Suhoor is a simpler affair, featuring slow-release carbs, like oats, wholegrain rice, and bread, as well as eggs, fruits, dates and water. 

Ramadan in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, Ramadan breathes even more life, light and colour into the country as its streets and shops are lined with decorations. Over the month, the Muslim community takes the opportunity to spread the world of peace and serenity, as well as giving generously to others. There are also the Tarawih prayers, a night prayer performed only during Ramadan that’s voluntary but encouraged. 

By the time Iftar rolls around, expect dishes like Piyaju, spiced onion and lentil fritters, Beguni, fried aubergine, popular sweets Chanar Jilapi and Bundia, as well as a host of Biryanis, Pakoras, and plenty more to share between friends and family.

Celebrating Ramadan Around The World

Ramadan in Morocco

Fasting in Morocco takes place between the prayer of Fajr and the prayer of Maghreb. The month is a time for observers to focus on reflection and repentance through acts of kindness and charity, as well as to share blessings with those in need. Ahead of Suhoor, you’ll often hear the Nafar just before dawn who wake people up with horns – an integral part of Morocco’s religious identity. 

Of course, a major part of Ramadan is Iftar (ftoor in Morocco) where people can not only enjoy breaking their fast, but also spending time and connecting with family and loved ones. On a Moroccan Iftar table, you may see dishes like Harira, made from chickpeas, lentils, vegetables, spices and simmered in a rich tomato sauce, Msemmen, a traditional flatbread, Baghrir, a spongy semolina pancake, and an assortment of grilled meats and fish, and vegetable side dishes bursting with flavour. Then, to finish things off, tuck into unmissable sweet desserts like Sellou, made from roasted flour, sesame seeds, honey and almonds, or Chebakia, a fried sesame cookie coated in syrup – all served with a choice of juices and teas, particularly mint.