We are going out for dinner, the mister and I because the lads are not here and because we both start late at work because the country is on Ramadan hours. We choose a place that’s in the hotel that’s over the bridge and around the corner from where we live.
The Ramadan cannon to mark the end of the fast has sounded. We aren’t fasting, but I always wait for the cannon before I begin my evening meal. It seems the right thing to do.
There is one taxi at the taxi stand. It was a risk to walk the humid walk to the stand and not order one to the door because at this time of the night many taxi drivers are at the mosque to pray and to break their fast for the day. Our driver is eating when we knock on the window of his car. Something wrapped in paper, he has a plastic bag on his lap which he is leaning in to. He slugs down a drink before he pushes it all back into his bag and we drive.
His taxi is air-conditioner cold.
The streets are quiet. I have been driving out on the highway at Iftar time and been all alone. You could, as they say, fire a cannon and not hit anyone.
The hotel, usually alive with locals and tourists and expats alike, is subdued. The cafes are restaurants are curtained and the stalls of the souq are all closed, covered in cloths and boards. Only the Starbucks has taken down its partition.
The Japanese restaurant looks closed, but there is a woman at the podium outside and she opens the door and takes us inside. Last time we were here, the lights were blue, the music was loud, the tables were full. Tonight, the lights are bright, there is no music and when we arrive the restaurant’s custom doubles.
We choose a table by the window. The curtains, which hide the food from fasting Muslims during the day, are still closed.
‘Can we open the curtains now?’ We ask the waiter.
‘No, sir, because we are serving alcohol, that’s why.’
A group of young (very young) men come in and sit at the table in the middle of the restaurant. Attracted by the Sunday night buffet, but apart from that I wonder who they are. They aren’t teachers. And at this time of year they surely aren’t a visiting rugby team. Oil and gas? They have the upper body for it. They eat sushi and drink beer.
The young couple at the table next to us begin to smoke.
I order a martini and the mister orders mojito. The martini is pink, the mojito is weak. More people arrive and we feel less alone but still we order, we eat, we leave.
As we walk out of the air conditioned hotel and into the humid air, my glasses fog and I have to stand for a moment so that I don’t fall down the stairs.