A Brief History of Famous Iftars From Around the World
Once Ramadan and Eid have passed, many of us miss the opportunities they gave us to spend time with our families, friends and communities. During the holy month, some of the most valuable moments we experience happen during iftars, when we truly get to reflect on how blessed we are, while surrounded by those close to us.
In fact, we were remembering them so fondly this past week that we started typing ‘iftar’ into Google and seeing what we could find. We soon came across a few examples of notable iftars from around the world, which for the sake of this blog, we’re calling ‘Famous Iftars’. We aren’t ranking these or comparing them to each other, we just thought it would be good to share a few facts about them with you.
Let’s check them out.
Although it’s pretty tough to confirm, many online sources claim the iftars surrounding Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, are apparently the largest in the world. This isn’t all that surprising, seeing as Masjid al-Haram is one of the largest mosques in the world, with a lot of outside space around it.
Still, the numbers that pop up in relation to these iftars are mind-boggling. According to an article in Gulf News, the meals feature 12 kilometres of tablecloth, five million dates and one million people – and that’s every day of Ramadan.
We recently wrote about this iftar, which took place a few weeks ago among the rubble of Douma, a suburb of Damascus in Syria. Despite their home being all but flattened by Syrian government forces, the local people still attended an iftar hosted by a charity in the town’s streets.
We should all remember this iftar. To see these Syrian people continue to express the values of their faith during such difficult times is really inspiring.
Imam Reza Shrine
Now, remember when we said that the iftars at Masjid al-Haram were the largest? Well, apparently the iftar meals at the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Iran, are actually the biggest. But that may be referring to the amount of people within the grounds of the mosque, whereas the figures for al-Haram may have also included the people surrounding the mosque. Phew. Anyways, let’s forget it and say they both look glorious.
Check out the video above of iftar preparations at the shrine this year.
The White House
Barack Obama at the White House iftar in 2012. Credit: Obama White House.
The first ever iftar hosted by the White House took place in 1805. Thomas Jefferson, who was the President of the United States at the time, was hosting Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy of Beylik of Tunis. In order to respect Mellimelli’s observance of Ramadan, Jefferson pushed dinner back to after sunset. And so the White House iftar was born.
Then it didn’t happen again for almost 200 years. However, the tradition (re)started in 1996, when the then First Lady Hillary Clinton hosted an iftar for prominent Muslim Americans just as Ramadan was nearing its end. The iftars continued in the following years, with Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama all hosting the event.