Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Iftar by the sea

Ever thought of breaking the Ramadan fast by the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean Sea? Ameera Fouad has some suggestions

Al-Ahram Weekly

What could be better in summer than to take your family or friends for a day out by the sea? This is what many Alexandrians do in the hot summer months and especially this year during the holy month of Ramadan.

People are looking for new ideas to have their Iftar meals in different ways and to experiment with new recipes, including those from Syrian, Turkish and other cuisines. According to the Ministry of Supply, Egyptians consume far more food during Ramadan than they do in the other months of the year.

But Ramadan, of course, is about far more than just food and drink. Social gatherings are an essential part of every Ramadan, and the holy month is a time when family members gather around the same table to share meals at the same hour. Moreover, people may handout drinks or dates during Iftar to strangers, and dishes are often circulated among neighbours.

While Ramadan is every Muslim’s favourite month of the year, summer Ramadans have their own particular taste and flavour, with people seeking out resorts where they can spend time together. When Ramadan and summer come together, many people prefer not to go on holiday and postpone their vacations.

But when they live in one of Egypt’s coastal cities the cool seawater may be too tempting, as is the case for many Alexandrians who like to enjoy their Iftar meals overlooking the beach.

Whether enjoying a beach party on the sand or sitting in a restaurant overlooking the sea, many Alexandrians like to smell the sea breeze after a long day of fasting. “The smell of the sea can almost make you break your fast without knowing it,” said Menna Helal, a 25-year-old accountant having Iftar with friends in Alexandria this week.

“We always come to have Iftar together by the sea in Ramadan. Each of us prepares a dish at home and brings it to the Iftar. It is better than having a meal in a restaurant since the service is often not at its best in Ramadan due to the high demand for meals at the same time,” she added.

Driving along the Corniche in Alexandria just before sunset during Ramadan you can see thousands of people waiting to have their Iftar meals overlooking the sea in the fresh air. Ramadan tents are set up for nightlife in the holy month, providing lots of activities and leisure facilities, with restaurants, kids areas and vendors booths being key elements. Before this year, there were few if any Ramadan tents on the Corniche, but today the Stanley Bridge area is popular among city dwellers.

Khan Asia, a Ramadan tent on Stanley Beach, shows how successful events on the beach can be in the holy month. Managed by a group of young people whose dream is to turn Alexandria’s beaches into magnificent nightlife destinations, Khan Asia, though a controversial idea to some, has attracted many Alexandrians this Ramadan.

“Many people like to go to the North Coast in summer to enjoy the glowing white sand and gorgeous blue water. In Alexandria we are lucky enough to have these beaches right in front of us and to be able to enjoy the city as well,” explained Ahmed Al-Saadany, one of the founders of Khan Asia.

“We wanted to use a beach for a Ramadan tent where people could enjoy their Iftar with a sparking sea view in front of them. Even so, it was not easy to organise on Stanley Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Alexandria,” he added.

“Stanley Beach is an almost forgotten beach,” said Marwan Fayed, one of the Khan Asia founders. “It was famous in the fifties and the sixties of the last century, when it could compete with top destinations worldwide. It is a shame that the beach today has lost much of its glamour and that there are few cabin owners on the beach anymore. This is why it has been so important for us to try to renovate it this summer,” he said.

“Getting council approval and all the licences we needed seemed impossible at times. We almost lost hope many times and were on the verge of giving up on our dream because of the bureaucracy. However, people kept encouraging us, and the governorate officials lent us a hand in making the impossible possible,” said Ahd Kadry, one of the co-founders of Khan Asia.

Though people might have different views about renting out a beach in summer and turning it into a Ramadan tent, arguing that it is a public beach not a private one, Khan Asia appeals to many Alexandrians. “We all know how this beach used to look in recent years, with trash everywhere. The place seemed almost irreparable, and many of us cabin renters lost interest in it,” said Khadeja, one of the Stanley Beach cabin leaseholders.

“But these young people have been responsible for a miracle. They have made many of us return to our cabins and open them up again. There are security officers everywhere, and the whole atmosphere is stunning, with music, Ramadan beverages and food being served for Iftar.”

The conversion is being seen as a turning point in Alexandria, especially for the city’s sometimes forgotten beaches. So if you are still hesitant about having your Iftar by the sea, you risk missing out on the breath-taking white sand and blue waters that you might be enjoying on a Ramadan evening, offering a serene and colourful escape from the city and the summer heat.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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