The Business of Iftar

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

iftar tablebwMuslims from around the world forge onward with the Ramadan fast in hopes of being successful this holy month and reaping all the benefits. Year in and year out, the rites of Ramadan remain primarily the same. Fasting, performing the daily and nightly prayers, reciting from the holy Quran and rejoicing in the season are the activities that most Muslims find themselves engaged in during the auspicious occasion.

However, while most things stay the same from one Ramadan to the next, there is one thing that always changes. The Iftar meal, which follows the breaking of the daily fast, is as diverse as the leaves adorning a lush green tree. Muslims in the Middle East, most of which continue to thrive despite the economic turmoil affecting the rest of the world, are renowned for the Iftar spreads offered on their tables. Surplus oil wealth and heavily subsidized governmental social services ensure that cups runneth over and plates are filled to capacity during Ramadan as well as the rest of the year.

Yet Ramadan provides a unique opportunity for savvy businessmen in the region looking to cash in on the Holy Month. And it does not hurt that this Ramadan features a minimum of 14 fasting hours per day and in scorching day time temperatures. Why bother slaving over a hot stove when you can be feted like a king? Hotels and restaurants in wealthy Middle Eastern countries, like Qatar and Kuwait, cater to the fancies of Muslims fasting in Ramadan. Social-networking sites, like Facebook, are utilized to attract fasting Muslims with sleek ads featuring delectable dishes. Print media, such as newspapers and magazines, are also used to advertise sumptuous buffets offering international cuisine as well as local delicacies.

Some of the most sumptuous Iftar buffets can be found in the Dubai Mall located in the municipality of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. One of the most popular restaurants, Na3Na3, features live cooking stations during Ramadan and the Eid festivities.  Guests dine on traditional Arabic fare and sip freshly prepared beverages that compliment the meal. A traditional ‘Oud’, or Arabic stringed instruments, player keeps everyone entertained during the meal. Al Bahou restaurant, also located in Dubai, offers fasting Muslims a lavish menu featuring roasted lamb and freshly wrapped shwarma sandwiches.


The Friday Market: New Reality

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

f-mrkt It’s a little known secret that one of the richest countries in the world just so happens to also be a bargain hunter’s paradise. From haggling in local ‘souks’ to bargaining over prices in fancy gold shops, scoring a delectable deal in Kuwait is just around the next corner. However, bargain hunters must be aware of the right time and place to sink their teeth into their next discount. Just as bargain hunters are welcome in certain establishments, they are abhorred in others.

But one place where prices are cheap, and negotiable, is the Friday Market. Piles of used clothes irons mingle with stacks of brand new cooking pots as buyers sort thru both the old and the new. Nothing is off limits as even tattered clothing and worn out shoes are available for anyone wishing to breathe new life into them. Recently renovated, the Friday Market stretches across for miles and is often considered one of the largest open ‘flea markets’ in the entire world. However the downsize of its sheer girth is that it is very time consuming for shoppers to sift through it all just to find a single treasure, plus a trip to the Friday Market often requires a couple of days of rest and tons of bandages on bargain-weary feet. And let’s not forget it only occurs on Fridays, which is enormously inconvenient for those wishing to spend their only day off at the beach.

Sensing a market for both new and used cheap goods, several savvy businessmen have come up with their own versions of the Friday Market online. Call it ‘Ebay-clonesque’ or whatever you will, but thousands of residents in Kuwait are using the power of the Internet to save both time and money. One of the most popular websites in Kuwait for selling new or used goods online is called Mazad, or ‘auction’ in English. With over 5,000 registered users, the site offers a wide array of cyber storefronts offering everything from live animals to used cars to fully furnished apartments.

Interestingly enough, it’s not just the website owners and bargain hunters that are capitalizing on this new thrifty trend. Non-business people are opening up their own storefronts and going into business for themselves. In a recent interview one such seller, Tariq Al-Jady, revealed that his used laptop and cell phone cyber shop can be a fickle business depending on what the customers who visit his storefront are looking for, “Sometimes you get lucky and you find an enthusiastic person who is willing to pay 50% more of the price you bought the phone for, and sometimes you find no one who is interested in the device. It really depends, you have to know what people want but you have to also know how available it is in the market.”

The online flea markets are welcome to bargain hunters in Kuwait, as the peak shopping season typically strikes in the summer months, when temperatures surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Shopping for a deal in the comfort of a cool air-conditioned home versus sweating it out in the heat of the unforgiving desert sun is very tempting. And that’s what webmasters are banking on as more and more bargain-lovin’ websites are set to launch in Kuwait over the next few months. Now if only someone could translate “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” into Arabic, the bartering atmosphere in Kuwait would be firmly set.