Malaysia is one of the finest examples of multi ethnic, multi lingual and multi cultural countries in the world. The country has a lovely mix of more than 60% Muslims, a little less than 20% Buddhists, less than 10% Christians and about 7% of Hindus. Though Bahasa Melayu is the national and official language, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tamil are widely spoken by the respective ethnic groups. The ethnic groups include Malay Muslims, indigenous non- Malay people, aboriginal groups known as Orang Asli, Chinese and Indians. Despite the different ethnicity and cultures, Malaysians live harmoniously celebrating each others culture and festivals.
I was witness to one such one such experience during my visit to Malaysia when I had the opportunity to take part in Iftar held in Kuala Lumpur. Iftar is the evening meal that Muslims have during Ramadan to break their daily fast after the evening prayer. Iftar is referred as Berbuka Pausa in the local language.
Iftaar was held at the Merdeka square (Independence square) in Kuala Lumpur, where people sat in long rows next to each other to break their daily fast. It was delightful to see people from all ethnics and beliefs sitting together to have the meal. From locals to foreign travellers to children, the square was brimming with people neatly lined up as the evening prayers floated in the background. Bandung drink (condensed milk mixed with rose syrup), a popular drink during Iftar was served all across. Soon, everyone broke their fast delving into both Malaysian and Indian dishes. It was first time for me and was very much a pleasing experience joining the people of Kuala Lumpur for Iftar. What I loved the most was the fact that the focus was so much on culture and not religion as many non Muslims took part in this evening gathering. We later strolled around to explore the night market which sold myriad items ranging from fabrics to sweets.
Iftar parties are also held at various hotels and restaurants across the city with a wide spread of Malaysian cuisine. When in Kuala Lumpur, Iftar at Merdeka square during Ramadan period is a much recommended experience for travellers.