This was an evening I was truly looking forward to!
One of Michael’s students, Jassim invited us for Iftar, the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. We arrived in what I’m coming to learn, a middle class Qatari family’s home. All Qataris are set with substantial financial security, but there is a continuum, and the family we visited last night is what I guess to be a very comfortable, yet humble, family-filled middle class home. Jassim’s father was the first Qatari to organize pilgrimages to Mecca. He was given the very treasured, rare gift of a piece of the cloth that covers the Kaaba. The cloth that covers the Kaaba is changed yearly. The cloth that is replaced is cut into small strips and given to Royalty.
Jassim’s father died back in early 2000. He had four wives. This means Jassim has 4 moms with (if I remember correctly) 9 brothers and 6 sisters. Jassim works out on an oil and gas platform. He has a brother who is a banker, another a fireman. The house has 6 maids and 4 drivers. Their house is over 20 years old with many, many vehicles! Qatari’s love their vehicles!
We entered not through the main entrance, but through a side entrance into the majelis. This is the traditional male majelis where men can directly enter the room. The female majelis is in another part of the house, but as Jassim explained, it’s to be renovated and not set up at this time. Not that I would have had to go there. The family is traditional, but not that traditional!
A majelis is, in Arab culture, the meeting room, front parlor where guests are entertained. The focal point of this room is the portrait of Jassim’s father.
While we talked, waiting for prayer to start to break the fast, Jassim’s cousin Mohammed arrived. The sound of his truck’s engine could be heard before he entered the majelis! Jassim and Mohamed took us to see Mohammed’s black street racing truck and the rest of Jassim’s family cars. I am particularly fond of the green truck….. 🙂
Back inside the majelis, Jassim’s older brother Ahmed joined us just before prayer. Then prayer started as it can be heard from the mosque, indicating Iftar, the breaking of the fast. It was time to eat!
Jassim lead us to another room just beyond the majelis. This was the unfinished female majelis. There, carpets were laid out and traditional Iftar food was waiting for us!
Traditional Iftar Food
Haleem: A slow-cooked stew of meat, bulgur wheat, and lentils (Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Central Asia). This was delicious! There was a meat topping to go over it!
Thread (Jassim’s spelling!): His mom makes this and is served one night with chicken, the other night with lamb. It has layers of bread soaked in the sauce topped with potatoes, carrots and the meat. It was amazing! Very rich, but yummy!
Potatoes: Baked in a rich cream with cheese…..need I say more….. 😀
Rose water: Very sweet and tastes like I’m drinking a red rose!
Local, homemade prepared dates: These dates melted in my mouth like sugar!! Very sweet!!!
Enjoying the food with Mohammed, Ahmed, Jassim, Michael then me. Jassim’s nephew and niece later joined us.
Next was dessert with either traditional Qatari coffee or tea served back in the male majelis!
Traditional Arab Sweet with Pistachios
Jello or Custard
During dessert, Khalid joined us. He’s a close friend of the family. Over 10 years. His family are bedouin; Khalid’s great-grandfather lived in a tent in the desert. Khalid called me sister, as is tradition.
Such a handsome group of men! Mohammed, Michael, Jassim and Khalid.
The evening was wonderful! Michael and I have been invited back. I ensured we would return after summer break with a pinky promise with Jassim!