Ramadan in the Old City
Now that Ramadan is in full swing, it is worthwhile to head to the Old City to enjoy the unique flavours of this special month. To start with, there is the fresh produce market which is brimming with all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Since it is customary to have several main dishes on the Ramadan table every evening, the consumption of vegetables during this holy month is considerably higher. The same goes for fruits, as people tend to nibble on them throughout the evening, until it is time to fast again. Dates are the star fruit of the month, as many break their fast with a few dates before eating anything else.
Ramadan also witnesses the appearance of unusual beverages that are not readily available throughout the rest of the year. There is a milky almond-flavoured beverage and the more common tamarind-based drink.
Ramadan has its special sweets as well. You will see many vendors pouring qatayef on a hot griddle. This pancake-like creation, which is cooked on one side only, is then filled with unsalted white cheese or chopped walnuts and folded into a half moon. After baking it is dipped in hot syrup which is often flavoured with rose water. One also notices the proliferation of dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins, which are eaten as is or which go into the making of sweets and puddings.
The Old City offers many cultural activities as well, including special Ramadan evenings at which stories are related and songs are chanted. The Centre for Jerusalem Studies of Al-Quds University, located right next to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif, is one such venue.