Cosmopolitan Dhaka has been witnessing a change in a long-standing tradition related to Ramadan. For the past few years, eating sehri out with family and friends, instead of at home, has become a popular practice of many in Dhaka.
This all started from a very well-known Puran (Old) Dhaka restaurant, Al-Razzak Hotel and Restaurant, about a decade back, claims its assistant manager Rajibul Alam Sadek.
“We’re the first restaurant to serve Sehri to people in this area. Following our footstep, other restaurants started serving Sehri too,” he said.
However, it took a decade or so for these instances to turn into a fad. Now, it is a common practice to go out for Sehri, the pre-dawn meal before the day-long fast that Muslims practise.
“People started coming to our restaurant in large number for Sehri roughly around 10 years ago,” Sadek said.
But the story of the beginning is not connected to Ramadan at all. Rather, it was a strategy to extend their business.
The restaurant authorities requested the drivers and their assistants of a Dhaka-Chittagong night coach company, S Alam, for a short stopover near the restaurant so that the passengers could buy snacks from them at late night. In exchange, the restaurant used to serve food to the transport staff free of cost.
“Since the inception of the restaurant itself, around 1993, we used to serve food to the passengers of the night coaches at the crack of dawn at a flat rate - the price was the same for meat and fish items,” said Sadek. “Then, a very small number of people, being attracted to our quality of food, started coming to our hotel for Sehri.”
Now, many Puran Dhaka hotels cook for the ‘rojadars’ or the fasting Muslims.
Already a known place where people love to go for sehri is Star Kabab. The place is already highly popular among the food lovers across Dhaka for its tasty fare.
“All the branches of our restautants except the one at Dhanmondi 19 will serve Sehri this year. Dhanmondi 19 will serve only Iftar during this Ramadan,” said Star Kabab’s Elephant Road branch’s supervisor Abdul Jalil. Their restaurant would serve all its regular items except the breakfast ones.
Despite the limited time of Sehri, until minutes prior of dawn prayers, some foodies ask for extras more than thrice, according to opertators of some restaurants. They regret their failure to meet the customers’ demand sometimes lead them to hit back on the social media.
Royal Restaurant in Old Dhaka’s Lalbagh area, is another popular destination for foodies. But the restaurant will not serve Sehri this year, said its supervisor Abdul Malek.
Still, the fasters can indulge their taste buds at Royal Restaurant during Iftar, the evening meal to break fast.
“Connoisseurs praise our pistachio sherbet highly as well as some other of our food and drink items,” said Malek. “We shall try to maintain the standard so that those who will be fasting can enjoy their Iftar,” he added.
Sehri at restaurant is no longer a patent of the Old Dhaka. In fact, newer parts of the capital have already joined the spree. The Dhaka people can have their Sehri in restaurants in those of Nando’s and Fool’s Diner in Gulshan, Baburchi and Cilantro in Dhanmondi and Nawabi Voj in Mohammadpur and Thirty3 Restaurant in the Baily Road area. Another restaurant, Hakka Dhaka, will serve Sehri through its four outlets across Dhaka.
Actually, almost every restaurant and cafe serves Sehri now, catering to the customers’ demands and making up for frugal sales during the fasting days.
Eating out at Sehri is just another sign that Dhaka truly is a city that never sleeps!