Working around food while fasting for Ramadan? For some, it's not so bad

Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Families trickled into the restaurant to pick up sweets for their iftar feasts. Some took baklava home, while others ordered fruit cups topped with ashta.

Rana Khanafer placed pink and blue mini umbrellas into the fruit cups and explained that she has been fasting since she was 9 . Sometimes, she said, customers ask her what the benefits are to fasting, or how she feels. Some comment that she must be thirsty. The 19-year-old doesn't mind — she sees it as a teaching moment.

"I'm so used to it," she said.

Around 7 p.m., several groups of friends and families filled tables, eager to break their fast. Dusk would hit just a few minutes later, and a couple of customers ordered their food ahead of time, then tucked into the market attached to the restaurant to pray. The shop had closed earlier in the day, giving those who wanted to use the space the opportunity for some privacy.

Hadya Sheikh and Mehak Khan came from Downey to eat their iftar meal together. The college students said they have been eating at the restaurant since they were kids, and decided to spend their Saturday night there because it gave them a sense of nostalgia and comfort. They both ordered chicken — Sheikh a wrap, and Khan a burger.

Taking her first sip of water since the early morning, Sheikh said that fasting served as a reminder to try to find her inner peace. The young women joked that it can at times be difficult to balance fasting with having a social life with friends who aren't Muslim, because they often invite them out to eat.

"I say to them, 'This entire month I can't go with you to lunch,'" said Khan, 23, laughing.

One table over, Yakub and Minu Patel sat with about 10 other family members and ordered steak, quesadillas and burgers, among other entrees. Their son, Faisal, lives in West Hills and brought the family to the restaurant because it's "our favorite spot," he said.

Faisal Patel, 46, said his family makes the long drive several times during Ramadan. His parents like to come when they visit from India.


To him, fasting is "a reset." The practice slows everything down and helps him to take stock of what's happening in his life. When he explains it to co-workers, he likens the Ramadan fast to the intermittent fasting popular among many in the fitness world. Still, he said, he doesn't understand how someone could fast and work with food all day.

"I can't even wait at a table with food on it," he said. "Respect to them."

Tehfi, his mother and co-workers didn't break their fast until food was on each customer's table.

Just after 7:30 p.m., he gathered everyone together by the cash register and unwrapped a bowl of dates. His mom cracked open a bottle of water, remarking that she wasn't hungry or thirsty. Khanafer quickly ate a date that was "so good."

Then Tehfi reached in, grabbed a piece of the unassuming fruit and took a bite, with a smile and a thumbs-up.


(Times staff writer Rubaina Azhar contributed to this report.)

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