Ramadan officially began yesterday at sundown, which means a month of fasting for devout Muslims until the evening of Friday, July 17. Here in Houston, Ramadan observers are getting off a little easier this year; for one, it's mostly taking place in June this year instead of, say, the deadly heat of August. Then again, in Houston, that means close to 17 hours of fasting from sunrise to sunset—without even so much as a sip of water—whereas in other areas of the world the fast is cut off by a shorter period of daylight. In Malaysia, where over 17 million Muslims observe Ramadan each year, folks only have to fast for 13 hours. In Punta Arenas, Chile, the fast lasts less than 10 hours, though we can't speak to the Muslim population there at the tip of the world.
Back in the Bayou City, fasting ends each day around 8:30 p.m., which is when you'll start to see lines of people queuing up from Phoenicia to Al Aseel, the latter of which serves its famous fried chicken until midnight every night of the week. But while breaking one's fast can certainly be done solo, it's much more enjoyable to join in a group iftar dinner. To that end, organizations across the city are hosting a series of iftar dinners this year, most of which do double-duty as fundraisers for a variety of charities and non-profits. After all, the month of Ramadan is about more than just fasting; it's also the month of the year that Muslims are called to take a step back from their daily routine and focus on others through charity, community work and, naturally, breaking bread with others each night.
One of the largest such dinners in Houston is the Annual Ramadan Dinner with Mayor Annise Parker, with over 1,500 people in attendance each year, and organized in collaboration with Houston's sister cities across the world, including Karachi and Abu Dhabi. This year's iftar on Sunday, June 28 will be held at the Bayou City Event Center starting at 6 p.m. As with past years, dinner is free though reservations are required.
The evening prior, on June 27, the Muslim American Society's Houston chapter is hosting an iftar catered by Fadi's Mediterranean Grill at the Bay Area Community Center in Seabrook. from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person or $45 per family, and the banquet will feature guest speaker Shaikh Mamdouh Mustafa, current imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, as well as a sneak preview of the new MAS Multi-Cultural Center. The following Wednesday, July 1, Developments in Literacy is hosting its own iftar at the Shahnai Banquet Hall. Tickets are $40 for adults and $20 for children, with a goal of raising $15,000 to help educate young women in rural Pakistan.
And this Saturday, the ILM Academy will host a free iftar dinner starting at 7 p.m., with samosas, fresh fruit and more of that delicious Mediterranean food from Fadi's (big shout-out to Fadi's for their own acts of charity during the month). The school is even providing free babysitting for families who come out to celebrate, so bring the little ones. Though the dinner is free, reservations are required and donations—which will go to support the school itself—are appreciated.