This year for Ramadan, Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, founded by Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal, is hosting a community event titled
As we break our fast with date jelly – infused with saffron, thyme, cinnamon and orange blossom and spray-painted with the words “this is not a buffet" – Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal surveys the scene around him.
“Part of what we do in general is to bring people together and celebrate the cultural community in the UAE," he says. “Ramadan is just another occasion on which we can do that by hosting this communal iftar."
Alserkal is the founder and developer of Alserkal Avenue, the cultural epicentre of Dubai. It is home to a good percentage of the city’s galleries, a venue for live music, an interior-design store, a fashion boutique and several artists’ studios.
Its daily iftar event – called #ThisisNotaBuffet, signalling its determination to offer something different from the mainstream – is set up in one of the cavernous warehouses that opened in Alserkal Avenue’s 76,200 square metre extension last year. The decor is minimal and the palette is monochromatic. We are sitting at long, communal tables ideal for visitors looking to breaking their fast with the community.
We opted for the five-course menu, which means that after the wonderful dates dish, we tuck into small mouthfuls of refreshing apricot sorbet served on a tray of dry ice.
It is an original twist on the traditional apricot drink called qamar al deen that is usually served at iftars. “We are always evolving and adapting new ideas," says Alserkal, reflecting on the development of the avenue since it opened in 2007. “This is what characterises us – we are open to other cultures and we like to engage all members of the community."
As the next course is served, we pause to enjoy lobster taco with edamame hummus, mini beef-brisket shawarma, and chipotle macaroon with Persian feta cheese.
The food, by Elements Catering, is tastefully presented and delicious. However, it is a long way from the traditional dishes that Alserkal and his family are used to at iftar.
There are three dishes, he says, that no Ramadan can be without in any Emirati household: harees, the porridge-like dish made with ground meat and cracked wheat; thareed, a lamb stew layered with flat bread; and luqaimat, crunchy, sweet dumplings deep-fried and soaked in date syrup.
When asked to elaborate on his thoughts about the holy month, the usually gregarious Serkal gets serious. “Ramadan is about giving and sharing but it is also very personal and private," he says.
As we round off the meal with Umm Ali ice cream and kheer cheesecake, Alserkal notes that the community rallies around a communal philosophy. “Our iftar has been very popular with the community," he says. “We are pleased to see so many people come out and support a concept that is slightly different from the norm."
• #ThisisNotABuffet is available every day during Ramadan from 7pm to 11pm at Alserkal Avenue. Prices range from Dh90 to Dh210 for a two or five-course menu
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