Residents enjoy virtual Iftars Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: For two years residents of The Sustainability City have been holding “blind iftars” as a way to meet new people in the neighbourhood. This year, it is different with social distancing still in place amid the coronavirus outbreak.

So instead of meeting each other in person - they got together on Zoom to partake in an Iftar evening. Not just that, they talked about a dish they enjoyed making on the day and even shared the recipe with Gulf News readers

Dolores Al Shelleh, 29, Jordanian Serbian

Living in the city for two years, Al Shelleh said she enjoyed meeting her friends on Zoom.

“This Ramadan is very different for all of us because of the situation we’re going through. Yet, it doesn’t mean we should not celebrate Ramadan. Thanks to the Zoom app, my family and friends are able to stay in touch with each other.”

Dolores Al Shelleh, 29, Jordanian Serbian Image Credit: Supplied

Al Shelleh’s recipe: Butter chicken


• 2 tablespoons oil

• 1 medium onion diced

• 1 teaspoon fresh ginger finely minced or grated

• 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced or crushed

• 1 ½ pounds about 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch chunks

• 1 can 6 oz. tomato paste (or 8-10 oz can of tomato sauce)

• 1 tablespoon garam masala

• 1 teaspoon paprika, adjust to taste

• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

• 1 teaspoon cumin

• 1 tsp salt

• 1/4 tsp black pepper

• 1 cup heavy cream sub for half & half or yogurt for low fat

For the rice

• 1 cup basmati rice

• 1 3/4 cups water

• Large pinch salt

Dolores Al Shelleh, 29, Jordanian Serbian shares her butter chicken recipe on Zoom with friends Image Credit: Supplied


To cook butter chicken: Heat a large skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and onions and cook onions down until lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and let cook for 30 seconds, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add the chicken, tomato paste and spices. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until everything is cooked through. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

To cook rice: Wash rice until it runs clear then rinse. In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Natalie Nimry, 43, Ukrainian

“These are challenging times. But I don’t want to let a pandemic situation in the world dampen the spirit of Ramadan. Although I am not a Muslim, I celebrate Ramadan and particularly love being part of Iftar dos as you make friends for life here. This year too, I wanted to keep the tradition alive and therefore did an Iftar over Zoom with community residents. It was incredible. I prepared pancake with cottage cheese and shared it virtually with my lovely friends.”

Natalie Nimry, 43, Ukrainian Image Credit: Supplied

Nimry’s Recipe: Pancake with cottage cheese


• 2 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Natalie Nimry, 43, Ukrainian enjoys a virtual Iftar although she is not a Muslim Image Credit: Supplied

• 2 cups whole milk, room temperature

• 2 large eggs, room temperature

• 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing


Mix flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and oil until smooth for about 30 seconds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes; stir for a few seconds before using.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium fire. Lightly coat with oil. Quickly pour 1/4 cup batter into the centre of the skillet, tilting and swirling the pan until the batter evenly coats bottom. Cook until crepe is golden in and edges begin to lift from pan. Lift one edge of the crepe with an offset spatula, then use your fingers to gently flip it. Cook on second side until just set and golden in places on bottom, for about 45 seconds. Slide crepe onto a paper towel-lined plate.

Repeat with remaining batter, coating pan with more oil as needed, and stacking crepes directly on top of one another. Let cool to room temperature before using, then fill with cottage cheese and drizzle some condensed milk on top.

Maya Abou Zahr El Husseini, 44, Lebanese

A resident of the city for the last four years, Husseini said while this Ramadan has not had a vibrant feel as it usually does – owing to the coronavirus situation in the country – she has been able to take time out to concentrate on her prayers, meditation and more. “I like reading books and I am an active participant of four book clubs. In the evening it is about Iftar on Zoom.

Maya Abou Zahr El Husseini, 44, Lebanese Image Credit: Supplied

El Husseini’s Recipe: Bazella w riz.


• 450 grams fresh peas and carrots

• 300 g round beef, cut into small cubes

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, crushed

• 2 tablespoons tomato paste, dissolved in 1 cup water

Maya Abou Zahr El Husseini, 44, Lebanese shares a joke with family and friends on Zoom while having Iftar virtually Image Credit: Supplied

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


In a cooking pot, heat the vegetable oil and fry the onions on high heat until golden and soft. Add the garlic and meat cubes. Stir on medium heat until the meat is cooked. Add the peas and carrots to the pot after draining them from the water in the can. Add salt, black pepper and the tomato paste then add enough water to cover the pot ingredients. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 min on low heat. Serve with vermicelli rice.

Nada Bsaiso, 41, Jordanian

said she has most missed meeting families over Iftar meals. “The socialising, interaction that happens is a different feeling altogether. The sights and sounds of an Iftar evening with children running around the house, mothers chasing them, families chit chatting over a meal is all being missed. And that is why my family decided we should at least see each other on Zoom for Iftar.

Nada Bsaiso, 41, Jordanian Image Credit: Supplied

Bsaiso’s Recipe: Qatayaf


• 2 cups all purpose flour

• ½ cup semolina

• 3 cups of warm water

Nada Bsaiso, 41, Jordanian shares the recipe of one of her favourite dishes she made for Iftar Image Credit: Supplied

• 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

• 1 tsp (3g) dry yeast.

• 2 Tablespoon (14g) sugar.

• 2 Tablespoon (6g) dry powdered milk

• 1 tbsp rose water

• ¼ tbsp mahlep (optional)


Mix all ingredients in a food processor

Cover and let it set for 10 minutes.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat, then pour the batter using a spoon to make circles. You can stuff it with cheese or nuts