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Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Tuesday, 10 August 2010 14:27 UK
Tikka temptation: surviving Ramadan on the Curry Mile
By Harsha Sharma
Contributor, BBC Manchester

Muslims go without food or drink for the holy month of Ramadan

The mouth-watering smell of a succulent chicken tikka is tempting enough for anyone visiting Manchester's Curry Mile.

But what must it be like working in a Rusholme curry house or cafe while also trying to fast?

Islam requires all Muslims to abstain from food, water or smoking during the daylight hours of Ramadan.

Rusholme's restaurant staff explain how they're surviving the holy month while surrounded by temptation.


Mohammad Javed works at Sanam restaurant in the heart of Rusholme, taking orders and serving diners with their meals.

As someone who has fasted every Ramadan for 40 years, he agreed that fasting around food was certainly a challenge but said the hectic nature of his job proved a helpful distraction.

"On an ordinary day we barely have time to think about eating," he said.

"During Ramadan it gets even busier as we host nightly celebrations where Muslims open their fast amongst family and friends."

Mohamed Mahr
I used to struggle with hunger pangs when I first started working but it soon becomes routine
Mohamed Mahr, Chilli Peri Chicken

Adding: "Physically, we do feel weaker without drinking water but it's all about mental strength. We don't think of ourselves making food, it is just a business product at the end of the day."

Across the street in fast food outlet Chilli Peri Chicken, chef Mohamed Mahr agreed.

"I used to struggle with hunger pangs when I first started working but it soon becomes such a routine that it's not an issue."

"Giving up food over Ramadan is almost enjoyable because it makes us realize how lucky we are.

"It's the cigarette cravings which cause me more grief," he said.


The Curry Mile is also home to a growing number of shisha cafes popular with men from the Asian and Arab communities.

They gather to talk and smoke using shisha or 'hookah' pipes, but this also has to be sacrificed by Muslims during Ramadan.

One such place in Rusholme is the Cafe Lounge run by Faisal Khan.

"In my heart, I'm feeling tempted but in my head I know I should ignore the cravings," he said. "It drives me crazy!"

Faisal Khan
In my heart, I'm feeling tempted but in my head I know I should ignore the cravings. It drives me crazy!
Faisal Khan, Cafe Lounge

For the thirty days of Ramadan, Faisal faces the dual challenge of giving up both cigarettes and shisha while continuing to run his business.

"Every year my friends and I try to prepare ourselves with new tactics and strategies," he said.

"But they become useless once Ramadan starts and I see others smoking in front of me!"

"I can just about struggle through the hours of fasting but start smoking again once I open my fast at night.

"I avoid speaking to people during the day as I'm a bit of a wreck."

For other cafe owners, the temptation of working during Ramadan is just too much and they shut up shop for the month.

"I don't think I could avoid picking up a shisha pipe if I was working, I'm so used to it," said shisha cafe owner Lafi Albadri.

"I would rather miss out on business than slip up," he said.

While a busy job may be the answer for those working around food, there is help available to quit smoking during Ramadan.

Co-op pharmacies are holding 'Stop Smoking' sessions for Muslims trying to kick the habit.

These support sessions could provide invaluable support during Ramadan especially for those whose jobs are an everyday temptation.


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