Houston Restaurants Observe Ramadan With Sehri and Iftar

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Ramadan began on June 28, meaning observant Muslims across the world are participating in the month-long fast that makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam. From dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from a number of activities including eating and drinking. During these, the longest, hottest days of the year, they can't even have water while the sun is out.

The good news is that every day before sunrise, Muslims consume a small meal called sehri and after sunset, they break the fast with iftar, often a larger, buffet style dinner.

Currently, sunrise is at 6:25 a.m. and sunset at 8:25 p.m., meaning there's a 14-hour period during which no food or water can be consumed. To observe the end of the fast in the evening, many local Pakistani restaurants are serving special dishes or setting up buffets with traditional items.

Whether you're Muslim or just interested in the sacred traditions of a different religion, check out the sehri and iftar offerings at these area restaurants for a taste of tradition.

Kaiser Lashkari, chef and owner of Himalaya Restaurant, isn't hosting a special buffet for Ramadan, but he is offering complimentary iftar to those who come to his restaurant to break their fast. Observant Muslims can get Rooh Afza, a concentrated fruit and herb drink, with milk, Medjool dates and an appetizer for free after sun down. Lashkari is offering samosas, dahi bara (a type of chaat) and bakoras (also spelled pakoras), a type of fritter.

Royal Restaurant in Alief is offering an iftar buffet throughout Ramada. On weekdays the buffet, which features traditional dishes like dates (used to break the fast), pakora, samosas and the drink sharbat, costs $11.99, and Friday through Sunday it's $12.99. The restaurant starts serving the buffet after sundown, generally around 8:30 p.m. Rahim, a friend of the owner, recommends you call and make a reservation if you'd like to come for the iftar buffet, as it can get very crowded. He said Royal Restaurant currently has reservations for large parties of up to 60 people, so get your name on the list quickly if you want to partake of the special meal.

On Saturday, June 5, Bismillah Cafe--not to be confused with Bismillah Restaurant--will be serving sehri (also called suhoor) from 2:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. That's definitely before sunrise! The cafe will be serving traditional Ramadan sehri dishes like anda paratha and hot chai tea. Reservations aren't required, but the small cafe will likely be busy. I'd say "get there early," but it doesn't get much earlier than 2:30 in the morning.

Both locations of Turquoise Grill (in Sugar Land and Upper Kirby) are offering a special four course iftar meal starting with the soup of the day and followed by a salad or meze plate, a main course with rice and veggies and a dessert. For main courses, diners can choose from items like gyros, shish kebabs or tilapia. Each meal will also come with dates, of course, and prices range from $18.95 to $22.95 depending upon which entree you choose.

Though it stays open and serves a buffet all day during Ramadan to please non-Muslim or non-observant customers, Shahnai Restaurant also prepares a special iftar buffet in the evenings. During the week, it costs $10.99, and on weekends, it's $11.99. Should you want to try the traditional Ramadan offerings in the iftar buffet, you're encouraged to make a reservation, as the pakora and other offerings are very popular.

This will also be the fifth year for the annual Pink Iftar Dinner at Christ Church Cathedral. On July 10, the Episcopal church will welcome Muslim women as well as women from other denominations to share a meal and engage in a discussion about women and Islam led by Wafa Abdin, former president of Arab American Cultural and Community Center. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. and costs $45. The proceeds go to Brigid's Place, a women's spiritual organization.

Once again, the mayor will be holding her annual Ramadan Dinner as well. She invites all Houstonians to come together and enjoy iftar under one roof on Saturday, July 12 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Bayou City Event center. Unfortunately, this event is so popular that the registration has already closed, but people who wish to be put on the waiting list can email info@houstoniftar.org or call 281-948-1840 for more information.

Ramadan Mubarak to all!

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