DOHA, Qatar — Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah, Qatar military chief of staff, invited 25 U.S. military officers stationed in Qatar to an evening fast-breaking meal during Ramadan, Aug. 25. Over 400 Muslims were in attendance; mainly members of the Qatari military. Abdulla Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar minister of state for internal affairs, was the most senior Qatari official in attendance.
“We are honored to share in this special religious occasion,” said Col. Maxine C. Girard, U.S. Army Central Area Support Group Qatar commander, upon arriving at the general’s falcon sanctuary, where a large, warmly lit tent contained 50 tables with a dozen food servers standing by.
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims send special invitations to share prayers and meals with others, in an attempt to receive extra blessings from God. Sharing wealth and respecting others are two time-honored practices during Islam’s holiest month.
Soon after hundreds of brief introductions, sunset was announced over a loud speaker system. Without delay, each Muslim was offered dates, milk, water and tea — a leisurely end to a day-long fast. “Iftar,” is in Arabic word referring to the light meal Muslims eat after sunset.
After terminating their fast, the worshippers lined up in a massive formation. Shoes removed, each Muslim stooped down in submission to God while facing Mecca. Three cycles of worship were carried out as a devoted community. “Salat el maghreb” is the fourth of five daily prayers in Islam; it’s observed right after sunset.
After prayer, everyone migrated inside the tent. Along the way, they resumed embracing each other while bestowing hopes for peace and happiness. Inside, food consistent with Gulf-Arab traditions filled each table top: lamb, hummus, bread, rice and salad. Chefs cut and served baby camel meat as requested.
“The hospitality here is fantastic,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Peter Butts, from Dallas, Texas, who had previously deployed once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq. “This was a special event that gave us a unique opportunity to interact with our host nation military.”