By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
For Muslims, there is no more sacred time of year than the holy month of Ramadan.
This ninth month of the Islamic calendar (the exact date it starts varies from year to year since there is a discrepancy between the Islamic and Gregorian calendars) is believed to be the time when all holy scriptures (from the scrolls of Abraham and the Torah to the Quran itself) were first revealed.
But while most non-Muslims know that Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer and intersection for their Islamic brethren, few know the intricate details and customs of this extraordinary holiday.
To help remedy that situation, on Thursday, May 6, Huda Tal, the wife of Jordanian Ambassador to Mexico Mohammad Mustafa Cyel Mustafa Wahbi Tal, offered a historical lecture, a class on the preparation of traditional Ramadan dishes, and a lavish sit-down Iftar dinner at her residence for a group of Islamic and non-Islamic diplomatic ladies and friends.
Upon arrival, each lady was invited to don a traditional Jordanian kaftan from Tal’s closet to help get them in the mood for the night ahead.
The evening opened with Tal’s detailed explanation of the significance of the holy month, which begins with the first siting of the crescent moon.
Tal explained that the annual observance of Ramadan is considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the profession of faith, prayer, the giving of alms and the pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj.
“Ramadan is about fasting from dawn-to dusk,” Tal said. “But it is also about many other things, especially giving to others and bringing family together.”
The ambassador’s wife also pointed out that Ramadan is a time for putting aside differences and mending relations, as well as helping those in need.
“Each Muslim country has its own Ramadan dishes and traditions, although some foods and practices are universal throughout the region,” she said.
Tal then proceeded to give her guests a short class on how to prepare three Jordanian dishes consumed during the holy month, including a heavy lentil chowder to break the fast, an almond-and-rose-scented apricot juice and nut-and-cheese turnovers.
Since the Tal family has been locked down in their home due to the covid-19 pandemic for most of the year that they have been in Mexico, Tal and her three small children built their own “mini-mosque” out of cardboard in their residence’s entryway, which she and they proudly showed off to her guests before serving the dinner.
The meal consisted of a hardy steamed chicken and rice main dish, accompanied by tabulé and other salads, along with the apricot juice and nut and cheese turnovers.
At the end of the meal, guests were offered a choice of cardamom coffee or cumin-scented tea and a lush buffet of home-baked sweets.
After dinner, each guest left Tal’s residence with a special gift box of various Jordanian pastries and the well wishes of the ambassador’s wife for a wonderful and prosperous year ahead.