Tuesday, August 25, 2009

'Ask an Omani' - Ramadan eating in Oman

We've all seen the rice, ghee, biscuits, Vimto, and various sugar/High Fructose Corn Syrup products piled high in the supermarkets, ready for the food frenzy that is Ramadan. (Dhofari Gucci also had a great post about the Salalah Ramadan feasting experience and the outstanding leaning tower of Creme Caramel).

One of my contacts in the food distribution business here assures me they do 3 months worth of 'normal' business in just the one month of Ramadan. Urban legend has it that most Omanis actually gain weight during the month of 'fasting', but I have no idea if this is true... Occasionally there are even reports of deaths due to over-eating!

Our resident 'Ask an Omani' Omani Dreamer adds to the topic with this week's special edition: "What is the deal with Ramadan and all that eating?"

Food in a Typical Oman Ramadhan Day

Many people look at the extent of shopping that happens in Ramadhan and wonder.. What do these people eat!?

First, I will have to explain the regular food we eat in a regular month:

Here, in a typical Omani family house, the day starts out with a cup of milk and Omani bread. (Omani bread is very thin and you dip it in the milk before you eat it). The day goes on and people might drink coffee at work and housewives might eat some fruits. In the afternoon, the typical lunch is rice with meat and some salads.. (Don't forget the watermelon)! Then, people don't eat until its dinner, which consists of either some soup or a western/eastern dish. Whichever it is, it's just either one or two smaller dishes.

On Ramadhan, we fast, but in reality we eat more! Here is my average day in Ramadhan:

The day starts out with sohoor (breakfast before sunrise). Now, to get the maximum food in your stomach that would digest slowly you would have to eat rice and yogurt. Some people eat rice and meat! But which ever... it is a heavy meal -Of course its a bad idea to sleep right after that, but we need to reserve energy! - Then, we wake up late and go to work. Since we only work for about five to six hours a day -its actually less, remember we are tired and can't concentrate much- we get home early. At 2pm, I would go into the kitchen to help out with the cooking -actually, I'm usually hungry and want to make sure that what I'm in the mood for will be served! - Today I made some sweets (including crème caramel of course!!).

Creme caramel: Recommended Ramadan eating!

At the Iftaar table (sunset breakfast), the whole family would gather around the food and stare at the watch. We all want the guy in Oman tv to stop reciting the Quran and call for prayer! The food consists of samboosa, 3 kinds of pastries, about 3 or 4 kinds of sweets, dates, fruits, juice, water, more juice..etc. Once the Imam calls for prayer I start grabbing everything I see in front of me: drinking a bit of juice, then a samboosa, then a pastry, then some sweets.. all at once and before the call for prayer is over! Then, barely able to stand up, I go to pray with a full stomach.

After prayer, we gather at the table again. This time, more food starts to come out. We would have the soup of the day along with more samboosa and pastries. We eat more and more, till our bellies hurt. Then, we take some rest. The men go to prayer (its about 8:15pm by now), and us women clean and try not to eat more. Once everyone is back, we are back to serving dinner. It would be about 10:30 to 11pm. The regular lunch that would be served in a regular month would be served as dinner. So we eat more.. take some zantac or tums, and eat more. Stuffing more food in your stomach than what you can handle, but all you think about is how hungry you will be the next day if you don't!

Is the picture clear now?


  1. I always wondered what the mountains of Vimto, Jello and Creme Caramel were for!

  2. Hurrah for Mr. Creosote! In some ways, perhaps, the very embodiment of at least one aspect of the spirit of Ramadan...

  3. JC

    A wafer-thin, after dinner mint?

    Oh. go on!

    [those missing the appropriate childhood zeitgeist: search youtube for Mr Creosote...]

  4. Nice post-- there was a similar cartoon in the Gulf Times (Qatar) about the Ramadan food habits, as well as an editorial about how the habit of switching night and day, which seems to be the pattern in the Gulf, isn't the true Ramadan spirit.

  5. Photo you selected was perfect. Minus the dress-shirt, that obese creature could be any Omani at about 7 p.m during Ramadan. Obesity.... my new topic... hmm...

  6. Thank you for your interesting article. I also linked to Dhofari Gucci. Both helped clear up some misconceptions and confirm some ideas I had about Ramadan.


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