In South African homes, and in particular Afrikaans South African homes hosting and preparing food is always an over the top experience. I can vividly remember my Ouma taking out 'braaivleis' for hundreds even though there were only six of us. There was ALWAYS too much food, in fact when you knew you were going to braai at Oumies and Oups you NEVER ate meals that day because if you arrived at the braai and didn't eat what was deemed 'enough' you always got 'that' look. I mean who wants to hurt their Oumies feelings and not eat. So that's what we did, ate, ate and ate some more!
This evening I was invited to my first ever Iftar by one of my Arabic colleagues.
As mentioned in my previous blog post Acceptance it is currently Ramadan - in brief this means that Muslims around the world are fasting from Sunrise to Sunset.
Having read up about Ramdan and what it entails I have secretly been dying to attend an Iftar to see the wonderful food that is always spoken about and to enjoy/celebrate the occasion with friends. Tonight was exactly that!
Myself, and some EMT colleagues were invited to join one of our Arabic counterparts at his family home along with another Arabic colleague to share in the Iftar with them. To be honest I was as excited as a young teenager receiving his first cellphone but also as apprehensive as an adolescent on their first date! I had probably read too much on the internet - a place where horror stories can very easily become your reality.
It is common in the Muslim culture that men and women do not mingle together. Men will often gather in what is called the "Majlis" sort of like a man cave if you will. A lounge with couches in every corner, flat screen TVs and coffee tables filled with dates and Turkish/Arabic Coffee.
How pleasantly surprised I was! We were welcomed into his home with open arms, shown into the 'Majlis' and some lighthearted conversation took place while waiting for the cannon to go off which signals the end of fast. As soon as the cannon was fired, our colleagues (who had been fasting all day - I really admire them as this cannot be easy and especially here where the temperatures are in the upper 40s for the most part of the day) offered us some dates. These have to be the sweetest most succulent dates I have eaten since arriving in the UAE. While sharing and passing around the dates our friends excused themselves to go and pray. Shortly thereafter they returned and the Iftar began. Mr A (real names not used out of respect) our host, who seems to be a keen chef, arrived with plates full of crumpets which is a common treat, after dates, with which to break the fast. They were filled with cream and crushed pistachios and the base soaked in Rosewater. They were divine and totally moreish!
Then we made our way into the dining room with tables just simply covered in food. The Afrikaans South Africans would have been shown up with the amount of delicious looking food which Mrs A had prepared for us. So as I had read, I expected the men to gather at the table together and the women to be somewhere else. As I understood the women would then deliver the food to the door where Mr A would collect it and we (men) would never be in the same company as his wife let alone talk to or see her. However, we were pleasantly surprised and incredibly honoured to have shared the meal together. She had prepared delicious food. In my excitement of trying everything I totally forgot to ask if I could take photos of the food but believe me you would far rather try it out for yourself than go on my experience.
Some of the foods included:
What made the evening so special was the fact that we all shared it together, something I was almost expecting not to happen. To have met Mrs A and shared her wonderful food I feel richer as a person. There was so much food and it was wonderful to share it amongst friends with laughs and stories with not a worry in the world. More people need to experience these types of instances and the world will be better for it. Mr and Mrs A and daughters, Mr S, Mr and Mrs B and Mr D - thank you for a wonderful evening you have made my heart happy my stomach full and my life complete!
Mr B has just sent me this photo which I'm so happy to include as it gives a great reflection of just how much wonderful food Mrs A prepared for all of us!