During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims break their day-long fast at sunset with an evening meal called Iftar. This meal is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is done right at Maghrib (sunset) time. Here are some facts about Iftar traditions across the world:

  1. Iftar usually starts with consuming a date and drinking water, a tradition that goes back to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). People can then eat any number of foods, with many regions having their own traditional Iftar foods. It is common for people to eat Iftar in large groups, making the fast break into a community party, and Muslims often try to include a charity in their Iftar meal as well, feeding needy members of the community while they celebrate Iftar.
  2. In the Middle East, traditional local cuisine figure extensively in Iftars. Dishes include hummus, fattoush, moutabel, stuffed vine leaves, falafel, shawarmas, the filo pastry sweet baklava, and heavier meat dishes like mandi and lamb koftas. The Iftar is usually done at home in most countries with the family, but many people also break their fast in mosques or send food items as charity to their local mosque.
  3. In Pakistan, Iftar is usually heavy, consisting mainly of sweet and savory treats besides the staple dates and water. Amongst the Punjabi and Mohajir ethnic groups, Iftar is often, but not necessarily, followed up by a regular dinner later during the night, while people from the north of the country combine dinner and Iftar. In Bangladesh, common Iftar items hail from local cuisine and include traditional Bengali sweets as well as different types of fruits. In India, in places like Hyderabad, people break their fast with a dish called haleem because it has a rich taste and is quite filling. In Southern states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Muslims break their fast with nonbu kanji, a rich, filling rice dish of porridge consistency, cooked for hours with meat and vegetables.
  4. In Egypt, most families break the fast with a dish made from foul medames eaten with brown bread. Another Ramadan specialty is the crescent-shaped bread or khaboos Ramadan. In Iran, people have some sweet tea and Tabreezi cheese, and walnut sandwiches after the call to prayer. In Indonesia, Iftar is called “buka puasa” which means “to open the fast”. Most Iftar food items are only found easily in Ramadan.
  5. Iftars are important community events in western, non-muslim countries. In the US, for instance, Iftar meals are often held at mosques, and Islamic communities, to which Muslim families are invited. The United States Department of State holds an annual Iftar dinner for community leaders from US society and faith groups as well as foreign policy officials. The first President to attend an Iftar was Thomas Jefferson.