Baton Rouge, Life at LSU, Student Cultures

Iftar meal with the LSU Global family

LSU Global students enjoy the program's annual LSU Global Family iftar meals.
About 20 students stared at their phones and anxiously anticipated the tick of 8:10 p.m.

A delicious dinner of chicken shawarma, gyro, rice, pitas, salad, hummus, Grecian dip and baklava awaited them then, but not a moment sooner.

LSU Global gathered Friday evening for iftar, or fitoor: the traditional Islamic meal at sunset during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims can break their daily fast.

But as anticipated and enjoyable as the food was, the most important aspect of the event was — and always is — the opportunity to come together and share that time.

“I liked the meal here, and I liked especially the chicken shawarma,” said Abdulraouf Bin Khalaf, a Saudi Arabia native studying civil engineering. “Getting here and seeing everybody, I felt kind of at home: everybody sitting on the floor, and we’re eating rice and chicken. And actually, the point of Ramadan is being together. It’s not about the food at all.”

Ramadan and iftar

Mandatory fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is one of the religion’s Five Pillars, along with faith, prayer, charity and a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

Exceptions include young children and instances of illness, menstruation, pregnancy and long travel.

“We don’t eat anything; we don’t drink,” said Saif Alameri, a petroleum engineering major from United Arab Emirates. “We’re trying to be, well, not perfect, but we’re just trying to be good people and pray more, read the Koran. We fast from sunrise to sunset, then we can eat until the other sunrise.”

Check out all the photos from Friday’s iftar meal!

Said Bin Khalaf: “It’s not about just stopping eating or just about food in the evening. Ramadan is about stopping bad habits. Actually, we stop eating food in the daytime to encourage us to be patient all the time, and it also lets you think about the poor people that don’t have food… And in Ramadan, we’re not supposed to say anything bad or have arguments with other people.”

Petroleum engineering major Abdulrahman Hasan Alhashmi, a United Arab Emirates native, added that some Muslims even refrain from listening to music, or at least non-religious music.

As for the food aspect, iftar, meaning “breakfast,” is the evening meal that breaks the fast just after sunset.

“In our culture back home, we usually start breaking our fast with dates and yogurt basically, and there are lots of various dishes,” said Nasser Ali Abdulla Husain AlHosani, a United Arab Emirates native studying chemical engineering. “The most common dish is rice with meat, and we do something called sambusa and gemat (or zalabia) — that’s dishes we usually don’t find around here, but we can buy stuff and make it ourself to enjoy eating.”

Iftar in the United States

Iftar does not necessarily require a specific menu.

Some students said they have eaten fast food, such as Domino’s or McDonald’s, on some evenings.

Those interested in a more authentic or culturally appropriate meal can run into some slight obstacles, but not much more than any typical college student living away from his or her parents for the first time.

“The hardest part is cooking, because we are not used to cooking our meals ourselves, and the time management was a very difficult issue, a very difficult challenge,” AlHosani said. “We had to balance between doing our studies and managing time to prepare food and actually eat it. Another challenge is the different types of food … Restaurants and fast food, it’s very similar to home — it’s almost exactly the same. But (when) we went to cooking the food ourselves, it was very different because you had to get this thing, this thing and that thing, and Walmart doesn’t have everything.

“Back home, it might be easier for us to find certain types of foods because we know (if) we want to get this type of meat or we want to get this type of spice, then we go to this shop or to that shop, but being here, everything is new. Everything is different, so we had to go to a lot of shops to know which shop provides which food.”

The students said, after some exploration, they have been able to find the ingredients necessary to make most of the desired dishes, and in some cases, have also grouped together to lighten the individual cooking responsibilities.

“I live with my friends, and we all put up an amount of money, so we can cook and everything,” Alameri said. “We have almost 12 persons, so we call cook at the same time, and everyone does his job.”

Said Bin Khalaf: “We’ve got about eight or nine people, and each one, if he cooks something simple and brings it, it’s gonna be a big meal for Ramadan. We try to help each other because everybody has school here, and everybody doesn’t have time to cook all day.”

In addition to Arabic groceries, such as Barakat International Grocery and Deli and Kased’s International Market, students have enjoyed local restaurants with halal options permissible under Islamic dietary law.

Almaza, Atcha Bakery and Sultan’s Kitchen have been among the favorite options mentioned thus far this summer semester.

The website and smart phone application Zabihah also provides a guide to locate nearby halal markets and restaurants.

LSU Global iftar

Many members of the “LSU Global family” gathered Friday to enjoy the food from Almaza.

Some students sat at tables or desks, while many opted to sit in a large circle together on a carpet in the middle of the program’s new office.

“It was perfect, and hopefully they do it again next Friday,” Alhashmi said. “Thanks, LSU Global! All of it was good. It’s been a long time since we met like that, and it was very warm. It was very nice. It was wonderful.”

Ramadan, which began the evening of June 5, will end the evening of July 5.

LSU Global will host at least one more group iftar meal this Friday at sunset, shortly after 8 p.m.

Several students expressed excitement to participate again, with one even asking about the potential of gathering to do so every day.

“I think that’s great, because Ramadan is all about gathering and all the Muslims gathering around,” Alameri said. “And since we are not in our home countries, it’s better to gather together and spend time… It was delicious — especially the hummus.

“Hopefully we come every week. It’s a good idea, and we thank LSU Global for this idea.”

Meet LSU Global’s newest students

Click the image below for introductions to this summer’s class and to watch some of the fun they’ve already had around campus, including dancing and basketball.




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