The Iftar traditions among Dawoodi Bohras is unique and different from many other customs during the month of Ramadan. While most Muslims break their fast with dates and water, the Bohra community starts all edibles – even sweets – with a little salt which they believe gives protection from numerous illnesses.
Each year and every day of Ramadan, the Bohra families break their fast at the Bohra Community Centers under the guidance of their community leader who says that “cooking should be avoided at home in Ramadan since this month is for praying and Quran reciting only.”
When having a guest, they take a break from the center for a day and set up a special Ramadan feast for their guests at home. Looking elegant in their traditional attire, their women greet them wearing the traditional dress Rida while the husband and sons are wearing white Sayo Kurtos and woven white and gold topis (head coverings).
Shortly after breaking the fast with salt, dates, and a drink, and after prayers at home, they serve Bohra delicacies in a traditional thaal (a big, flat dish holding a number of dishes). They believe that “A family that eats together stays together.”
The thaal is set with a tantalizing menu of two sweet dishes including mango falooda and ladoo, chicken seekh kabab, Russian chicken cutlets as starters, dry fruit including dates along with a sweet drink called gudd sharbat traditionally called gol nu paani with sabz seeds.
The Bohra eat in a sequence which will be found interesting by all visitors dining with them for the first time. In a gathering of more people, they seat themselves in a not more than eight people around a thaal. Food is not served till there are eight people around in order to avoid wastage. The sweet is eaten before the savory dish following which the sweet is eaten again before moving to the last course after which the meal is ended with a pinch of salt.
At the community center, people are all given food packets containing dates and biscuits which they keep on the prayer mat waiting for the azaan. This is followed by dates and biscuits along with warm badam pista (almonds and pistachio) milk called harira or tea.
Soon after Ishaa prayers at the center, the community shuffles into groups of eight – men and women separately – and sits around the thaal to feast on other delicacies such as rice, daal, and palidu (drumsticks made of gram flour and semolina) among other dishes on the thaal. Each year, the children are given a chance to give the Azaan sermon at the center.
Taken from “The Bohras have a unique iftar custom” by Asma Ali Zain