Ramadan Beyond Borders

A special month for Muslims around the world, Ramadan begins with sighting of the new moon in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The holy month of Ramadan is, however, observed in unique ways all over the world. While implementations of cultures and traditions spans across continents, the tradition of breaking fast with dates and water remains common. Let’s take a quick look.

Saudi Arabia

Muslims in Saudi Arabia congregate in Mecca in the holiest month to make their daily five prayers, break their fast and then return to the mosque to recite the Quran all night long. There is much reading of Quran in the place it was first revealed to Prophet Mohammed.Food: The fast is broken at home with family and friends and the Iftar traditionally begins with a soup followed by samboosa (fried meat pie)


An evening gathering called Ghabga is very popular and lasts till late night. On Girga’on (14th night of Ramadan) children go from door to door singing good wishes to neighbours and collecting candy, nuts and sometimes money from each home. People also dress up in a ‘fraisa’ (a festive looking horse) with drums and/or flutes and actually do a little act for each house they visit. Food: In Bahrain, the fast is broken with dates and water, followed by soup, salad and the main course.


In the UAE, cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are illuminated with crescent moons and shopping malls are flooded with displays of Ramadan couture. Food: A large fusion of Iftar favourites can be seen on buffet tables — which includes biryani, salads along with fresh dates and cold drinks, fresh fruits and Emirati traditional dishes like harees, thareed, mathrooba and Arseeyah.


A typical Turkish custom is the use of drum rolls before the dawn prayers where drummer boys go around waking people up for Suhoor. Once the prayer call for breaking the fast is said, the minarets on the mosques flash a green light. This is a signal to indicate that it is time to end the fast. In the evenings, festive mood prevails on the streets. Food: In Turkey, people generally eat freshly baked pide, meze, soups, kebabs, pilav and borek.


The Fanous or lighting of the lanterns is one of the most captivating of the Ramadan traditions. Children go out
into the streets with their beautiful and brightly coloured lanterns. Food: Foul medames is typically eaten to break the fast with special Ramadan drinks, sweets and mains. Another staple is the molokhia soup, accompanied with
chicken and rice. Qamar al-din, made from dried apricots is another favourite.

Indian subcontinent

In the Indian subcontinent, during Ramadan, food and family gatherings seems to be most important; friends and
family come together and spare their time for eating. Food: Indian Muslims traditionally break their fast with haleem. In Pakistan, streets are filled with different versions of samosas, a puff pastry filled with different kinds of meats and vegetables. However, in Bangladesh it ranges from piyaji, haleem, dates, samosas, fish kebabs etc.

The United States

Prayer, fasting, gathering with friends and family at Iftar and engaging in community service are ways that merican Muslims celebrate Ramadan. Food: Muslims flock to the mosque or Islamic centres for potluck dinner and araweeh prayers all through the month of Ramadan.

Written By: Anjaly Thomas

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