Quick guide to Ramzan in Mumbai
In Mumbai's Muslim neighborhoods during the month of Ramzan the atmosphere moves from one of quiet contemplation to electric joy and boundaries between rich and poor disappear.
Piety and celebration go hand in hand for Muslims -- but the rest can't resist jumping in on the feast.
Here is a brief guide to help you negotiate the penultimate weekend of Ramzan, on the last three days of the month celebrated as Eid ul-Fitr.
Holiest month: Rituals and celebration
Of the festivals on the Islamic calendar, Ramzan is the biggie. Because it is believed that during these 30 days the Prophet Mohammed was blessed with the spiritual knowledge of Islam.
Devout Muslims take a month to spend their time in the spiritual practices of the Quran, to lead an honorable life and to forgive and forget their rivals made during the year.
A typical day begins at the crack of dawn.
Prayers are offered and sehri, the meal before sunrise, is eaten.
During the day, Muslims abstain from food and water in order to remind themselves of suffering, and to practice self control and cleanse the body and mind.
The fast is broken only at sunset after prayers.
Here's where you come in.
Ramzan street food feast: Bohri Mohalla and Minara Masjid
Let’s make two food stops because what's at Bohri Mohalla is markedly different from the fare at Minara Masjid.
At Minara Masjid, the signature dishes are the grilled and barbecued meats, skewers of gurda (kidney), kaleji (liver) and boti (succulent meat chunks), grilled quail and bheja (brain) fry.
Dig into the nalli nihari mutton marrow curry for sure.
The Bohris are also known for their culinary skills but at their Mohalla a subtle Guajarati influence creeps in to the cooking.
So while you may find vegetarian pav bhaji (surprise, surprise) next to grilling meat, make no mistake you are here for the meat.
The must have in Bohri Mohalla is the bara handi, twelve pots containing thick gravies of different hues which simmer for hours.
Try the paya (trotters), nalli (marrow), pichda (ox tail), topa (ox hump) and boti.
End your feast with calorie-laden delights such as malpua (a rich syrupy pancake), firni (rice pudding) or hand-churned sitaphal (custard apple) ice cream.
If there's one thing you should eat ... it's khichda
This 1,000-year-old dish that has its origins in Arabian cuisine has equal parts of labor and love that go into its preparation.
Made from meat, broken wheat, an array of lentils, milk, saffron and spices, all these ingredients are simmered slowly for as long as 12 hours over a wood fire until it becomes almost porridge-like.
Khichda is served garnished with caramelized onions.
This rich, one-dish meal is usually eaten in the morning by the devout because it keeps them nourished through the day.
Try khichda at Jaffer Bhai’s Delhi Darbar, opposite St. Michael’s Church, Mahim; +91 (0)22 2446 5651.
Mumbai's biggest mosques
There are 89 mosques in Mumbai. The Bohras patronize eight, the Khojas two, the Mughals one and Sunnis, the rest.
Of renown are:
1. Jama Masjid on Sheikh Memon Street
2. The mosque near the tomb of Sheikh Makhtum Faikh Ali at Mahim
3. Jama Masjid on S.V. Road
4. Jakaria Masjid in Mandvi
5. Bohra Masjid in Bohri Mohalla
6. Mughal Masjid on Jail Road
7. Ismail Habib Masjid in Memonwada
If there's one mosque to see ... it's Haji Ali
Mumbai's most famous mosque and a top tourist draw is the Haji Ali Masjid at Haji Ali.
Suspended in the Arabian sea, it has the most scenic location of all and hundreds throng the narrow rocky strip leading up to it, after evening prayers to catch the breeze and sunset.
Ramzan on foot: Mohammed Ali Road and Bohri Mohalla
While cruising past these areas in taxi or a car will give you a perfunctory look and feel, there’s nothing like a leisurely stroll amidst the throngs of white-capped men.
Let it be said that this means jostling through exuberant crowds and if you are even a bit faint-hearted or tend to get claustrophobic, you should still walk it -- it's an experience.
Best undertaken at night, the Mohammed Ali Road stretch is the one walk you should definitely do.
It brings together people from all over Mumbai and is the busiest and the buzziest, split again into two distinct districts: Minara Masjid and Bohri Mohalla.
What a festival walk feels like
Begin at the top of Mohammed Ali Road near Crawford market. A few minutes in, you sense a change, people and shops have begun to multiply densely.
By the time Minara Masjid approaches it has become a churning sea. The air is thick.
Glittering sandals and ladies' bags compete with shiny clothes and sparkly toys for sale.
Step a little ahead and you notice smoke from barbecue fires rising in the night sky and the smell of grilling meat is all you can breathe in.
Somehow you know you’ve reached the epicenter.
Further down the road on your left lies the Bohri Mohalla.
The shops have thinned out and receded. There is a quieter, perhaps even a more elegant air here.
Maybe it’s got to do with the way the Bohris dress, in their predominantly white outfits.
The chaos exists but it’s a very relaxed and easy vibe. And as you approach the Bohra Masjid, you get that sense of déjà vu as the place begins to fill out and the smell of food fills the air again.
The people are friendly and you’ll feel safe and welcome.