Warmest of welcomes at a traditional family iftar
his week I had the pleasure of experiencing the generosity and kindness that is synonymous with Ramadan. I got to spend iftar with a Muslim family who were kind enough to invite me into their home and allow me to break fast with them.
I’m always a little nervous about being invited to someone’s home, especially when I have a talent for putting my foot right in it. I needn’t have worried because as soon as I arrived at the Egyptian family’s home I was given the warmest of welcomes.
I’ve been to a few iftar events over the course of Ramadan and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them, a little too much judging by my expanding waistline.
What I hadn’t experienced, though, was traditional homecooked Middle Eastern food. Given my limited palate I wasn’t sure what I was in for.
Any concerns I had soon evaporated when I watched the table being laid, a veritable feast was on display.
But before I could tuck in to the food, there were traditions to uphold though.
I have to admit that the seconds we spent watching the countdown to the cannon being fired live on television, to mark the breaking of the fast, felt like an eternity. It wasn’t easy looking at such wonderful looking exotic food within touching distance, especially as I was completing my second day of a self-imposed fast.
The first dish was Mulukhia (pictured), a delicious green broth that tasted unlike anything I’d had before. To someone whose soup making extends to pouring a can of Heinz tomato soup into a saucepan this was a revelation.
That was followed by Fattah, an incredibly tasty mix of rice, chicken breasts, bread and yoghurt. Again it was a unique taste for me and I was delighted to find myself eating as much as I possibly could, dismissing my notions of being wary of foods I wasn’t already familiar with.
The final dish was boftek, a wonderfully tasty steak in breadcrumbs that was right up my street. If I had have eaten any more they might have had to roll me out of the door.
Common ground was found during the meal when we spoke about football and the European Championships.
I probably showed my age when talking about how I remembered Ireland playing my hosts’ nation Egypt in World Cup Italia 90.
Despite our cultural differences, their warmth showed that kindness and generosity are the same in any language.