Are you suffering from ‘corporate Iftar fatigue’?

All that is needed is a change of perspective to help you make the most of Ramadan celebrations

Imogen Lillywhite
Imogen Lillywhite - Special to Al Arabiya English
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It starts about three weeks before the first day of Ramadan. Ping! The invite to the first corporate iftar of the season lands in your inbox.

You think about the special atmosphere of Holy Month as you get ready to embark on your first work-based iftar of the year, but wait, as the days go by, there is another invite, and another, and another.

Fast forward to day 25 of Ramadan, and you have loosened your belt two notches and you are besieged by nightmares about a galloping Lamb Ouzi carrying a tray of chocolate-covered dates in its rice-covered hoof.

Zabeen Bint Ahmed, founder of Sevia, a venture innovation management and advisory firm, who typically attends up to five corporate iftars per year, says she sometimes finds the city’s tradition of mixing business with food tiresome.

“After a while, all the buffets taste the same. Or maybe you’re just so tired from fasting you can’t muster the strength to dress up and drive somewhere to break your fast,” she said.

It does not have to be this way - all that is needed is a change of perspective to help you make the most of Ramadan celebrations. We found out how Dubai’s movers and shakers make them work for a variety of purposes, from networking and teambuilding and promoting cultural understanding.

Afaq Mufti, a director in the Dubai office of a global consulting firm, has a positive take on the events, and typically attends up to seven during the Holy Month.

“Corporate iftars are professional and formal, while iftars with family and friends are more on a personal level and in a relaxed atmosphere. Corporate iftars offer a great variety of catered food which would be difficult to have at home or friend's place, plus they serve a strong networking purpose,” he said.

There is only one downside, he said. “Given the vast variety and amount of food on offer, one tends to overeat.”

Management consultant Nick McGinty is also on board with the concept, but says it’s important to try to remember what Ramadan is about.

“When welcoming visitors from other countries it is a great opportunity for them to share in such an important event and gain some insight into a different culture which they may barely have touched upon in their own country,” he said.

“On the other hand, using iftar as a reason for a more standard corporate dinner or event can sometimes feel a little hollow and not in keeping with the spirit of Ramadan.”

Emma Procter, co-founder of media agency Blowfish Media, said for her, the social aspect of Iftar was key.

“Being British I think it's rude to refuse an invitation that's well meaning. And since I chose to live in the UAE, I think it's a shame to miss out on anything related to the culture. I have never hard-core networked at an iftar, it would feel wrong - although I will say they do offer the chance to talk to business contacts in a more human, down-to-earth way.”

She added: “I'm not Muslim, but the iftars I have been to with friends at their home are much nicer, obviously because they are more intimate and you get a stronger sense of the meaning behind it all.”

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