By Arshad Dogar

With the Islamic holy month of Ramadan starting here on June 29, restaurant owners and community organizations have started making preparations to host special break-the-fast meals, or iftar dinners, for their customers and members of the community.

During daylight, Muslims who fast go for more than 18 hours without food or drink. So when the sun goes down, they are very hungry.

At Palmyra, at 10 Smithfield St., Downtown, which has been serving halal food since it opened this past February, the owners are cooking up iftar dinners especially for Muslim students at Point Park and Duquesne universities.

Interestingly, Samir Moussa and his wife, Rawah, are Christians from Syria, but they are enthusiastic to serve Muslims during the holy month. Their Muslim chef, Mustafa Muzaffar, ensures everything is halal there, and Mr. Moussa says, “We are also hiring five more Muslim workers from Detroit to serve the increasing number of customers during Ramadan.”

The couple says they were raised in a Muslim-majority country so they‘‍ve preferred halal food since their childhood. She believes that when an animal is slaughtered in the Islamic way the blood squeezes out of animal’s body freely and it makes the meat more clean and healthy.

She says the special menu, to be served from sundown to midnight during Ramadan, will change daily, but each iftar meal will have five parts:

To break the fast, special drinks and juices will be served along with dates. The juices include jallab (a type of syrup made from dates, grape molasses and rose water), fresh lemonade and garlic/onion juice.

Then there will be three to four different soups, including lentil, potato and chicken-and-vegetable.

Next, they will serve salads, including tabbouleh, fattoush, hummus, baba ghanoush, Mediterranean salad and carrot salad.

For entrees, there will be shish kebab, kibbeh (with lamb and beef), shish tawook, plus white rice and mujaddara (lentils and rice).

Desserts will include baklava, namura (semolina cake soaked in syrup and topped with almonds), kanafeh (cheese pastry), mamoul (date cookies) and fruit.

Palmyra is also going to offer special Turkish bread topped with chicken or lamb as well as al ma’soob, bread mashed into bananas and milk.

Cost of the Ramadan buffet will be $13 to $25 per person. Mr. Moussa says he will arrange 20 chairs outside the restaurant for the feasts.

Salem’s Grill also is hosting an iftar buffet of fresh-baked breads, gyros, lamb and chicken shawarmas, spinach-and-cheese pies and desserts. It will also include dates, kebabs and salad. Cost is $14.99 for adults and $6.99 for kids under 12. Salem’s will be open from 8 to 9:45 p.m, and the Ramadan buffet will be available to go after 6:30 p.m.

Pittsburghers also are invited to dine together in the Ramadan Iftar Dinner Tent on the lawn of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Once again, the Turkish Cultural Center Pittsburgh is presenting free dinners, for up to 200 people per night, on June 30, July 1 and July 2. The dinner start at sunset, 8:54 p.m.

The menus:

June 30: Yogurt soup, kavurma (braised lamb cubes browned in its own fat) and rice with vegetables.

July 1: Lentil soup, chicken and bulgur pilaf.

July 2: Mushroom soup, kofte (meatball) and vermicelli rice pilaf.

Salad and baklava also will be served.

The TCCP also invites people to join one of its volunteer families for Iftar dinners, which can be arranged from July 3 to July 25. Contact the group at or by calling 412-567-8833.

Arshad Dogar — a reporter from Lahore, Pakistan — is an Alfred Friendly Press Partners fellow at the Post-Gazette: (

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