Ramadan in Delaware: An Inside Look at the Islamic Holy Month

Curious about how Delaware's Islamic population celebrates the holy month of Ramadan? Here's a look at the food, traditions and more.

Atoofa Zainab was excited when she moved from Rawalpindi, Pakistan to the University of Delaware last year to pursue her PhD in the Energy and Environmental program. However, while making the move, she naturally felt that she was going to miss quite a few things from back home—namely the Ramadan festivities.

Ramadan, also spelled Ramzan or Ramazan, is the holiest month in Islam. Practicing Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset throughout the month, with Suhoor, or Sehri, marking the meal one has at the break of dawn, and Iftar being the breaking of the fast. Before coming to Newark, Zainab wondered if she was going to get the traditional Pakistani Iftar in Delaware. To her pleasant surprise, she found the taste of home in close proximity.

“Last year I had a few Iftars at my friend’s place, and it included everything that I used to have in Pakistan—samosas, pakoras, chaats, dahi baray…” she says.

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Fasting and Feasting: Newark’s Ramadan Foods and Traditions

Zainab even found the famous concentrated squash Rooh Afza—a traditional Iftar drink in the Indian subcontinent—at a local Indian grocery store. The Bangladeshi-owned Indian Sizzler restaurant also offers a range of Indo-Pak cuisine, including an assortment of pakoras and samosas, and various curries and biryanis for which the region is known.
(Indian Sizzler | 72 East Main Street, Newark)

As Ramadan commenced on Monday, March 11, Zainab hoped to relive some of her memories from last year and taste the dishes that take her back to Pakistan. In addition to finding easily accessible food, Zainab also appreciates the Muslim student bodies at University of Delaware. Students organize regular Iftars and other events in Ramadan, which become a source of communal harmony and togetherness. However, when asked if there is one thing she is especially excited to have for Iftar this Ramadan, Zainab didn’t take too long to respond.

“Fuego! Their chicken is absolutely delicious!”

Fuego Peri Peri Grill is located on Churchmans Road in an area with multiple eateries. The meat served at the restaurant is completely halal, and owner Kevin Patel says that they are taking catering orders for Iftar as well. Fuego’s specialty is its grilled chicken and, if you can handle some heat, we would strongly recommend topping it with the hot flavor and getting Peri fries on the side. And that appears to be the go-to combo for Iftar at Fuego this Ramadan!
(Fuego Peri Peri Grill | 1103 Churchmans Road, Newark)

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Fuego’s location is popular for local foodies and will be a favored destination for those looking for a hearty meal for Iftar this Ramadan, with an array of eateries from which to choose. Among these is the Moon Star Turkish Bakery, which owner Busra Turaf launched on Churchmans Road in the lead up to Ramadan.

“Our cakes are already quite popular. I would definitely recommend the Turkish Brownie flavor as an Iftar dessert,” Turaf says. Moon Star’s rice pudding is getting a lot of attention as well, and naturally the baklava is a specialty. The cold baklava is absolutely scrumptious!

Turaf went to high school in Delaware, and is a graduate of Wilmington University. She says when she was in school the locals didn’t have as much awareness about Ramadan and Islamic customs. “Back then when I was fasting, I was constantly asked why can’t I eat or drink the whole day. Now there is much more awareness among people regarding Ramadan,” she maintains.
(Moon Star Turkish Bakery | 1213 Churchmans Road, Newark)

Fusion Fare: Ramadan Traditions With American Flair in Wilmington

The growth in awareness is thanks to the work done by various Muslim groups and organizations. Among these is the Muslim Center of Wilmington, and the Masjid Al-Kauthar.

Like most mosques during Ramadan, Masjid Al-Kauthar offers Iftar to local Muslims looking to break their fast. The menu at the Iftar at Masjid Al-Kauthar was a hat-tip to the American roots of the local Muslim community. Doritos, pretzels, chips, turkey, fried chicken, donuts, cookies—the Iftar was packed with American delicacies. A lot of the food was home-cooked, with women preparing the meals and bringing them to the mosque where they offer the prayers as well. Volunteers including early teens, boys and girls, served the food during Iftar.

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As far as traditional American food for Iftar goes, Masjid Al-Kauthar wasn’t an exception—it’s a common sight in American mosques. Wilmington’s Masjid Ar-Razaaq had cheese pizza at Iftar on Tuesday, some of which was enjoyed by the worshippers after Tarawih, late night prayers that are offered exclusively in Ramadan. Masjid Ar-Razaaq is a two-minute walk from three of the most renowned halal restaurants in all of Wilmington.

Gyro Everyday is a famous food truck on North Market Street, and is known for its gyros and rice dishes. Across the street is New York Fried Chicken, which has customers queued up for its specialty, the hand-breaded fried chicken, every evening. Completing the halal triangle is Krispy Krunchy, which too offers a range of fried chicken and sandwiches. But the pizza is the pick of the lot, with cheese and pepperoni the most ordered.

Mohammed Shabaan, an employee at Krispy Krunchy, strongly recommends the falafel as well. “We don’t do it the same way we make the falafel back home in Egypt, but this version is really delicious as well,” he says. “Our pepperoni pizza is really popular, because we offer a halal alternative for those looking for one,” he adds.
Gyro Everyday | 2928 North Market Street, Wilmington
New York Fried Chicken | 2931 North Market Street, Wilmington
Krispy Krunchy | 3000 North Market Street, Wilmington

Pizza was also served for Iftar at Newark’s Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam on the first of Ramadan as a diverse array of Muslims came together to break the fast.

Celebrating Ramadan in Delaware
Local Islamic people gather for the first Iftar of Ramadan 2024 at Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam. Photo courtesy of Kunwar Khuldune Shahid/Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam.

Embracing the Holiday in the First State

“Masjid Isa becomes a hub for fostering community spirit by uniting people from diverse backgrounds Our community members hail from 35 countries, across five continents,” Dr. Muhammad Naveed, a founding member of the mosque, explains. Like other mosques, Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam relies on a strong team of volunteers to organize Iftars during Ramadan. These officials and volunteers further help organize events in collaboration with other communities, including an Iftar hosted with the Westminster Presbyterian Church on March 17.

“Collaborating with Westminster Presbyterian Church for Iftar exemplifies the inclusive spirit of Ramadan, emphasizing unity and compassion across faiths.”
—Dr. Amna Latif

“Collaborating with Westminster Presbyterian Church for Iftar exemplifies the inclusive spirit of Ramadan, emphasizing unity and compassion across faiths,” notes Tarbiyah School Director Dr. Amna Latif. “We not only celebrate our shared humanity but also strengthen interfaith and interpersonal bonds. This collaboration allows us to engage in meaningful dialogue, learn from one another, and foster a sense of belonging and understanding within our diverse community.”

Tarbiyah School, which focuses on Islamic education, has planned a variety of events for the students in Ramadan, including recitation competitions, community activities, and service projects. Students at Newark High School also recount how the local community has ensured that Ramadan is a special occasion for Muslims. Among other steps, the school now gives Muslim students the day off on Eid-ul-Fitr, the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan.

“This year is particularly meaningful for us as we welcome the inclusion of Eid as a recognized holiday, reflecting the diversity of our student body. Through community service projects and dialogue sessions, we aim to promote unity and understanding among our peers, regardless of background or beliefs,” says Ahmad Baqir, a ninth-grade student at Newark High School.

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