Intro to Ramadan: What Makes an Iftar?

ramadan iftar what is iftar dinner meal traditional

Credit: AP / Asmaa Waguih

Intro to Ramadan: What Makes an Iftar?

One of the unique things about being Muslim in America is the huge diversity that exists within our community.  I attend a very small mosque in the Midwest (by small I mean less than 100 families).  Yet we have a United Nations of countries present; Egypt, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Palestine, Indonesia, African American and White Americans just to name a few.  So how do we end our day of fasting?

The majority of Muslims break their fast (iftar) with dates, water and some type of soup.  This small meal is followed by a larger meal.  Some traditional iftar foods from around the world include;

  • Morocco: Harira soup, dates, boiled eggs and chbakiya
  • Somalia: samboosa, khameer and mish mish
  • Egypt: konafa, foul mudhamas, tamiya
  • Saudi Arabia: Mashkoul, Basbousa, kaddu ki kheer soup
  • United Arab Emirates: harees soup, kousa mashshi, baklava
  • Pakistan: pakoras, samosas, biryani
  • India: haleem and samosas

In doing a little research on each of these things I discovered an interesting thread.  Almost anywhere in the world the staples of iftar are; a soup usually vegetarian but sometimes with a little bit of meat, some type of protein either legumes or meat in a fried form, and a sweet of some type.  As I began to think about uniquely American foods for iftar I couldn’t come up with anything!  Sure we could eat chicken nuggets or chicken noodle soup but there really aren’t any uniquely American iftar recipes.  The one exception might be the bean pie from the African American Muslim community.

A 2010 photo essay from the Boston Globe showed some very beautiful pictures of Ramadan around the world.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to see the diversity in our world!