Speaking off the toque: Sam Said, owner and general manager of Cedars Mediterranean Cafe [4703 Richmond Avenue, (713)572-9445].
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This December, while Christians celebrate Christmas and Jews celebrate Hanukkah, Muslims celebrate the most important holiday on their calendar, the Fast of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and the fast culminates on the 27th day of the month, when Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, when, it is believed, the prophet Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Koran. According to the Koran, this is the day when God determines the course of the world for the following year. The fast is observed by not drinking or eating anything between sunrise and sunset, or, as the Holy Koran states it more poetically, one may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night." The first meal after sunset is called Iftar.
Q. Is there a change in your business during the month of Ramadan?
A. Yes, there is. We find ourselves in a very unique position. One is, we are a reflection of the pluralistic nature of our society -- we are not just serving food, we are teaching people about our culture. As far as business goes, we have a small lunch business during Ramadan, but people come in from 5:30 to 6:30 [p.m.] for Iftar and, later, since we are open until 10 p.m. The dinner business doubles or triples.
Often, if someone asks if a dish is special to Ramadan, we can talk about it, explain Ramadan and exchange cultural information. The more we see, talk, exchange with people, the more we become more cognizant of the fact that the underlying reality is that we are all humans after all. We help communication, understanding and become more accepting and tolerant of each other.