Farook called and invited me to join him after iftar
being a time for family. Then he took me to a Ramadan tent around 9:00 p.m. The tent was erected inside a portable glass building, air-conditioned and with a large-screen TV. The building was situated on a large, sandy lot.
In large letters by the entrance to the tent was the command to refrain from smoking, in English and Arabic. Those who wished to smoke could sit on the sand outside the building and take their chances with the scorpions. Quite a few chose this option.
The tent was furnished with traditional Arabic furniture: cushions on the floor laid along three walls, and oriental carpets. Shoes were to be left outside the tent.
When we went in, the TV was tuned to a sports channel. Farook didn’t care for the tennis, so he asked me to hand him the control, and flipped channels until he found the Jeddah channel showing the mosque in Mecca. After awhile, he switched to an Arabic news channel that was reporting about the North Korean nuclear test.
Then our host, thinking of me rather more than Farook did, asked for the control and switched to a channel showing a French movie with English and Arabic subtitles so everyone could enjoy it equally.
Farook said we’d eat at 10:30 p.m., meaning 11. As we waited, more and more people came into the tent. Farook said many of them had no money, and had eaten nothing but an iftar
consisting of a few dates and either water or 250 ml of juice, nothing else. Farook said this was the proper iftar
He said they would have a very small meal, called suhour
, just before the time, an hour before dawn, when the fasting starts. Almost everything they will eat for the day is from the Ramadan tent at 11.
(Farook then said that he had eaten a huge iftar
with his family, and would not be able to do justice to the meal provided by the Ramadan tent.)
As we waited, they served us Arabic coffee, then very sweet tea, then sweet zatar tea, then Vimto, then plastic cups of water. Then they started over again with the coffee, tea, etc.
The tent got more and more crowded, and I lost my space on the cushions and ended up on the carpet. Finally, a few minutes before 11, the people who had been serving the coffee and tea came in with a roll of plastic of the kind used in inexpensive restaurants for table coverings. When the plastic roll was set out and weighted down, they began bringing in huge trays of food and setting it on the plastic.
The menu was roast goat on rice, roast goat on lentils, khamis
, a mixture of goat and flour that's been steamed for a long time until if forms a paste, black-eyed peas, flat bread with a sweet sauce, donut holes covered in sweet sauce, vermicelli with a sweet sauce, and one more sweet, but they didn’t tell me its name.
No utensils, the idea is to grab chunks of goat with your hands, or dip your fingers into the khamis and the sweets.
By 11:15, all the goat was gone, as were all the people. Outside was a wooden platform set next to two water taps, so one wouldn’t have to stand in the mud while washing up.
Everyone stood outside, smoking, while people came by offering more coffee and tea.
Then Farook took me home, dropping me off just after midnight.