by Nordamia Rahimi
Usually, when it comes to prolonging office hours, it is always met with reluctance. Especially during the holy month of Ramadan, because once that clock hits 5 o'clock, all a working Muslim can think about is where they’re breaking fast.
When our boss announced the reason behind our extended office hours that Tuesday, a genuine sense of excitement coursed through. Who wouldn’t love the opportunity to just relish in bottomless cuisine? While I was no stranger to breaking fast with friends beyond my immediate household, attending an iftar buffet dinner like this with my colleagues promised an interesting experience.
On the day of our dinner, we efficiently completed our tasks, aiming to conclude the evening quickly to evade the expected Selangor traffic congestion. Around 5 o’clock, we opted to carpool and during the journey, I was told about the ladies joining us which included a handful of industry professionals, friends and a former colleague with whom they seemed close to.
As soon as we exited the elevator, the smell of food greeted us. Typically, the sight and scent of food do not faze me during fasting, but my composure was tested when the hotel staff in chef uniforms passed by with copious amounts of food they were going to serve. We regrouped at the reception, where the courteous staff swiftly facilitated our check-in process, providing us with wristbands for entry. We were escorted to our table in the elegantly decorated ballroom, where our tables were adorned with Batik textiles. Settling into our seats, we took a moment to immerse ourselves in the ambiance before going on a little expedition around the buffet stations.
As a foodie, I couldn't contain my excitement. It was the epitome of culinary diversity. From delectable Butter Chicken and fragrant Biryani Rice to mouth-watering satay accompanied by an array of the appropriate side dishes. While the ballroom filled with guests, our tables quickly filled with an assortment of dishes in large rations for us all to share. Amidst the wait for Iftar or sunset, engaging conversations naturally ensued. It was a refreshing break from work, permitting us to get to know each other's personalities in a more casual setting. I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected sense of humour and sarcasm exhibited by many there.
At the announcement of the Adhan, I was relieved to finally break my fast with everyone at the table. What touched me was how not everyone was fasting that day, yet they still courteously waited the rest of us out of respect. The hotel had taken great measures to ensure that the fasting guests were well-catered to. They had set up signages that helpfully guided us to private prayer rooms, which were clean and spacious enough to accommodate everybody.
As we savoured our meal, a live band began playing traditional tunes and old Malay songs, enhancing the festive atmosphere. The lead singer interacted with the guests, even serenading those celebrating their birthdays that night. To everyone's surprise, some guests seized the microphone, displaying their hidden singing talents and leaving the room awestruck. The rest of the night unfolded with laughter, entertainment, and a plethora of scrumptious dishes that enticed us to return for seconds and even thirds. There was no shame in indulging and frequently replenishing our plates and glasses.
It was an unforgettable experience. I vividly recall glancing around the table, witnessing everyone laughing and reveling in each other's company. After a brief hesitation—due to everyone's enjoyment and the irresistible allure of the dessert table—we eventually rose and concluded the night with a joyous group photo. Smiles abounded as we expressed heartfelt gratitude to one another for attending before bidding farewell.