Unsure about iftar etiquette? Here’s an insider guide on what to do, wear and bring

Dress modestly, don’t be late and only eat after the prayer call are just some of the tips

The fast is usually broken after the adhan is heard, with a few dates before the main feast. Courtesy Dusit Thani
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We've properly entered into the spirit of Ramadan, the month during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and also the time when families and friends get together for iftar. Iftar is the time when Muslims break their fast and takes place when the sun sets. If this is your first Ramadan in the UAE or you're just not sure about what to do if invited to a friend's or colleague's iftar party, here are some points that you might want to keep in mind.

Dress modestly

Even if you’ve been invited over to a close friend’s house, make sure to dress appropriately. People dress more modestly during the holy month, and you don’t want to offend anyone by wearing clothes that are too tight or too revealing.

Bring a gift

There is no real expectation to take a gift, but it's a nice gesture if you're invited to join someone for iftar. Most people take dessert, which can then be shared with everyone. You could even bake it yourself. Remember Muslims follow a few dietary rules, including no alcoholic beverages, so if you do decide to bring a dish or drinks with you instead, make sure it's free of alcohol and other restricted food items. Dessert, chocolates, dates or hostess gifts are your best options. See below for more gift suggestions. 

Arrive on time

Iftar is the kind of event for which you can't be fashionably late, simply because everyone will be seated at the dining table at the call for prayer, or what in Arabic is called the adhan. Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before adhan. You can find a timetable for prayer times in the UAE on https://www.thenationalnews.com. Remember, any time before that may be a little early as your hosts will be busy preparing for iftar. But if you do arrive early, offer to help.


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Avoid eating before the adhan prayer is heard

If food is being served on the table, do not start eating until everyone is seated and the adhan is heard. Many families will have the adhan playing on television, so they can clearly hear it; if you’re breaking the fast at a restaurant, the adhan will be played on loud­speakers. No matter how hungry you may be, don’t drink water or have any food until everyone is sitting down.

Eat what you please

During iftar, you’re free to eat whatever you like. There is no particular order as to what you should have first. However, most Muslims break their fast with a date and a glass of water, which is believed to be what Prophet Mohammed did to break his fast. Most ­people prefer to have soup and salad before diving into the main dish.

Avoid smoking

If you’re a smoker, don’t light up at the dining table. It’s preferable that you don’t smoke throughout the evening, or at least wait until after the food has been served before excusing yourself for a smoke outside or in another part of the house. If you’re at a restaurant, ask where the designated smoking area is.

Prayer time

After iftar, your guests might excuse themselves for prayer. This will typically not take long and there is no expectation for non-Muslims to participate. The evening normally comes to an end after your host has served fruits and dessert, along with coffee and tea.


Presents for your iftar hosts

If you are going to someone's home for iftar, don't turn up empty handed. Here are some gift ideas to help you on your way: