Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, when Muslims do not eat between the rising and setting of the sun. During Ramadan,
Muslims celebrate the fact that it was in this month that God first revealed the words of the Quran to Mohammed.
The month-long fast involves abstinence from food, liquids, smoking, between the hours of sunrise and sunset,
but at night the holiday has turned into a feast in many Arab countries,
each of which has its favorite special Ramadan foods and recipes. Moreover, fasting must be undertaken with spiritual intent (niyyah ),
and this intent must be renewed each day before dawn. Mean-spirited words, and thoughts and deeds such as slander, lying, and covetousness
negate the value of fasting. The fast commences each day at dawn, immediately prior to which an early morning meal, suhoor, should be eaten.
It usually includes a special bread called mushtah and a sweet cream-filled pastry called kilaj, which are served only during Ramadan.
During the day no food or drink may be taken, which can be a severe test when Ramadan falls during the hot summer season.
The day's fast is broken with a small meal, iftar, taken as soon as possible after sunset. Traditionally, this is dates and water in remembrance of Muhammed,
who always broke his fast by first eating dates, followed by lentil soup and salad. A larger,
often quite elaborate meal may be eaten later at a mosque or shared with visiting friends and family.
There are no particular rules governing what should be served for the main course. Sweets are very popular during Ramadan.