Circa 7:35 PM
Iftar: simultaneously the most amazing and overwhelming food experience of my life. Yes, I consider myself a foodie; the “following” section of my Instagram page is padded with a variety of brunch blogs. However, no number of visits to Boston coffee shops could have prepared me for this. First came the olives; then, the tabbouleh; then, the pickled vegetables. The servers piled our table with salads and dips, of which we dropped quarter-sized swirls onto our plates. A bowl of pita served as our centerpiece, and we used it to sample our assortment as a painter does his palette. For my table, just the appetizers were enough— after the main course and dessert(s) that followed, we were in a major food coma.
Yes, the meal was amazing—and a great photo op— but, the next day, I found myself angry that I had reduced it to an ‘attraction’ of sorts. With 95% of the Jordanian population identifying as Muslim, Iftar and the context of Ramadan is a major symbol of the strength of religious adherence here. On the first day, I admit that I joined my peers in disappointment as we realized the extent to which fasting limited our options where daytime activity is concerned. Like many, I felt that the sleepy noontime streets and grate-clothed storefronts prevented me from the ‘experience’ of daily life in Amman. This outlook is selfish; given the significance of Islam in daily life here, Ramadan is the experience. Although I’m all for fasting to better understand the experience of the majority of my peers in Jordan— and I’ve done so myself— the traditions of Ramadan shouldn’t be spoken of like a cool fad. When students ask each other “are you fasting?” the conversation shouldn’t be reminiscent of one about the keto diet. I couldn’t be more glad that I experienced Iftar, and I plan to do so again tonight. However, as we enjoy our baba ganoush, we shouldn’t let the significance of our meal get lost in its aesthetic.