Friday, September 5, 2008

A Taste of Iftar

Fifteen minutes to go and I’m rushing around the kitchen. The food is still cooking in pots, the radio isn’t tuned to the Quran station, and I haven’t put out dates or even incense. Thank god I had the sense to dress ahead of time, I think to myself as I lunge to tame a pot of boiling soup. They’ll be here any minute!

An alarm clock clangs to life on the other side of the kitchen. The scent of my finished cheese pastries floats through the air, hypnotizing. But I have no time for mulling over them. The moment I pull them out of the blazing oven, I hear a cackling back on the stove. In a flurry of skirts, I’m at the side of my burning rice. I manage to save the day by dumping it all in a porcelain bowl and scraping off the burned black layer.

All is not well for long. On my way to light the incense in the dining room after turning on the radio, the sizzling of chicken reaches my ears. I dart back into the kitchen, and take a sip of the chicken’s sauce. Just as the liquid scorches my tongue, I remember with a start that I’m fasting. Sunset is still five minutes away! I sprint to the sink and spew out the sauce.

Back in the dining room, I fumble with a wooden match that refuses to light until I get a green cigarette lighter that does the job. The spicy sent of the lit incense floats through the air, reminiscent of old bazaars and temples. I smile and stop for a moment to survey the room.

The dark mahogany chairs are arranged around a table heavy with set silver and the prospect of food. Soft light floats through the open window, from where I can see the sun, a large yellow cracker, dipping into a soupy orange sky. Quranic passages from the radio hover through the room, leaving behind traces of tranquility.

The doorbell rings. I walk swiftly to the kitchen, get the tray of dates and water waiting on the counter, and then place it on the dining table. All is set. I go to the door and turn the knob, letting in a drove of greetings and guests, followed by the sound of the call to maghrib prayer, signaling the end of the day’s fast.

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Originally published in TimeOut Dubai.