Ask Ali: Fasting and food – Ramadan eating explained

During the Holy Month, it’s advised that those fasting follow a simple diet.

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Dear Ali: While Ramadan is the time for fasting, I feel that people care about food during the Holy Month more than at any other time of year. Why is that? TP, Al Ain

Dear TP: You’re right, Ramadan is a month of worship and prayers, the time when we have to forgive and seek forgiveness, and abstain from all that’s forbidden.

It may sound funny, but despite that, overeating is a common issue during the Holy Month.

Firstly, for some Muslims, the long hours of fasting during the day might be very exhausting, and it makes them want to eat and drink more than usual. Though, I believe it’s not the main reason.

During Ramadan, we’re advised to do more good deeds. During this time, most of us who fast are better able to understand those who are in need and how food is important for people’s lives and well-being. Hence, we try to share more food with each other, as an act of kindness, and caring is believed to bring blessings.

That’s why refusing an invitation to iftar is considered to be impolite, unless you have a good reason.

You can always postpone the visit to another day, but make sure you do your best to accept the invitation and come when it’s possible.

Usually during iftars, the tables will be laden with all kinds of food and desserts that are generously shared among guests.

Dear Ali: During the fasting month of Ramadan, do Muslims also follow some sort of diet and avoid eating certain products, like followers of some other religions do? And if I may ask, what’s the most popular dish served in Emirati homes? SA, Ras Al Khaimah

Dear SA: During the Holy Month, it’s advised that those fasting follow a simple diet. Apart from not being able to eat or drink anything from dawn until sunset, there are no other food restrictions, other than the types of food that are already banned in Islam, such as non-halal meat, its products and alcohol.

In regard to favoured dishes for iftar, I would say that it’s those that are traditionally Emirati, such as machboos (a spiced and mixed rice dish with fish, meat or chicken) and thareed (a soup-like meat-and-vegetable dish with layers of bread in it) that are eaten most frequently.

But the most popular dish would have to be harees (wheat porridge mixed with meat or chicken). This dish is also very popular on any festive occasion and during the Eid holidays.

For drinks, many like to serve sweet syrup, such as Vimto, blended in water.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit

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