Host an Iftar for Your Neighbor

A portrait from Brooklyn and The World

Looking for a special way to reach out to Muslim neighbors and friends this Ramadan?  Or maybe you want to know more about their traditions but know that Wikipedia can only get you so far.  Why not invite friends or neighbors over to your home to break the fast together and let them tell you how and why Ramadan is so important to them.

iftar table with homemade maamouls, dates, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Ramadan Reflections

Each year at Ramadan, we at Cultures Capsules look to showcase and celebrate various Ramadan traditions around the world.  Some of our favorites include reflections of one Brooklyn family with roots in Palestine, an iftar meal with Nigerian chef in Manhattan, and a Malasian iftar with flair from several other spots on the globe, and of course, cookies from Tunisia.

If you want to share your story, contact us here!


How to Host an Iftar

Iftar is the breaking of the fast.  During Ramadan, this happens only after the time of the official sundown. This is also the adhan (call to prayer) is made. At this time, people observing the fast may have a date (or 3) to break their fast, just as the Prophet Muhammed once did. They may also want to pray at that time.

iftar table with store-bought maamouls, dates and fresh fruit

Contrary to what you may assume, when sundown comes there isn’t a gorge-fest to make up for a day of fasting. 

Friends tell me that not only is it tradition to break the fast slowly but it is the after many hours of fasting the body wants a slower introduction to food, starting with dates, and water, tea or juice. It’s all the stomach can handle at first.

After some time (and likely prayer), a small meal will follow. These meals are often soups or breakfast-type foods, both of which vary according to family customs and/or geography.

Your guests may be headed to the mosque for prayers and community meals, or to another home for a meal, and you should discuss this with them beforehand so everyone’s expectations are in line.

Beyond water and dates (and maybre juice, tea and snacks or a small meal), it’s really just about welcoming your new friend and asking them about their traditions.

As W. Kamau Bell would tell you, ask the dumb (but respectful) questions, instead of making up answers or going with answers that other people made up (appropriately, he said this in his “What I Learned from Muslims in Small-Town America” episode of United Shades of America filmed in Dearborn and Hamtramck, Michigan.)  Watch it if you haven’t already!


Recitation of Quran

Gorgeous audio recitation of Quran, free via Spotify

This beautiful Quran recitation by Sheikh Mishary Rashid Alfasay, available on Spotify for free.

The recitation is sung and it is gorgeous. 

If you haven’t listened to the Quran being recited, you are in for a treat.  Even without understanding the words, we think you will feel the powerful peacefulness of it.  Take a second to put it on before you continue reading.

You put it on, right? How beautiful…


Iftar Spread

Dates are recommended to break one’s fast during Ramadan, so be sure to have some on hand. It is not only Prophetic tradition, but also provides the body with sugar by helping restore low blood sugar after fasting all day.

Juice, especially freshly-squeezed, is appreciated too.  That’s all is really needed, especially if your guests plan to head elsewhere for prayers and/or dinner after breaking their fast.

If you expect your guests to stay longer, you may ask if they want to have a meal as well.  They may want to or they may plan to have a larger meal at home with family or friends later in the night.  One option for a quick but delicious soup sometimes eaten at Ramadan is this recipe for Shorbet Adas (lentil soup).

Some local friends from Yemen shared these delicious sambusas (some made with potato and peas, and some with beef) that they made.

homemade sambusas from my friend aasma, during ramadan 2018

Since my very first inquiry into Ramadan food traditions, ma’amouls have been my favorite iftar treat to make at home, bring to iftars, and also just give as gifts. With the spiced date paste at the center, they take on a symbolic gesture, in addition to just being delicious.

homemade maamouls brought to a nigerian iftar.
homemade maamouls brought to a nigerian iftar.

You may be able to find them easily at this time of year if you have Middle Eastern or groceries or specialty bakeries around. But if you have the patience to make them, you will be rewarded with a lovely Ramadan treat


Meghna’s Ma’amouls

This recipe for ma’amouls is our own. We came up with it by first referring to several recipes and trying our own versions to get to the taste and texture to mimic what we had enjoyed before. I always double the batch below which should make about 30 cookies (enough to eat and also share). 

plate of delicious maamouls, freshly made
freshly-made plate of maamouls
making ma'amouls, stuffing the spiced date in the center.
making ma'amouls, wrapping the dough around the spiced date center, and adding a design on the top using a stamp.
making ma’amouls, wrapping the dough around the spiced date center, and adding a design on the top using a stamp.


Paper Lanterns

If you want to further get in the spirit and beautify your home to welcome your guest. Head to the bottom of this portrait for the simple tutorial.

homemade lanterns to celebrate ramadan

Ramadan Mubarak! Happy Ramadan!