Ramadan Tent Souhour - St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi

As I make my way through the glorious marbled tunnel from the St. Regis Abu Dhabi Hotel to the beach club on the corniche side for my first souhour, I cannot help but gasp. An architectural splendour! When I get to the other side, that feeling of awe continues. I think to myself how marvelous it is that they have transformed a simple tent into something so magnificent.  Evidence of the iftar enjoyed earlier is there as I gaze at the buffet area that had been set up for that. I am shown to my majlis  for the evening where I  meet a friend, an acquaintance and some strangers.

As I sit down and greet everyone, the menu on the table seems insignificant. But this is a St. Regis affair, you need to look at the menu, a thought keeps intruding. However, there is a bigger pull within me. There is something that takes precedence over the food - that something is what I describe as connecting. I notice the the super slick St Regis service as a waiter comes and takes our drinks orders. Moroccan tea, pomegranate juice and Turkish coffee are some of the orders that ring around the table.

At our table we are all introduced to one another - someone born in the UAE, another from Jordan, the USA, India, the UK and South Africa -the initial chat about the weather and the usual where are you from is the conversation.  I look around the tent. At one table I see a couple engaged in  a meaningful conversation. But happy. At another table I notice there are some young men playing cards. Happiness. All the while, the smell of shisha fills the air - occasional mint, strawberry, rose, grape and apple scents can be discerned - part of more than 20 different shisha options available on the St. Regis menu.

Opulent but tasteful. 
There is a hustle of excitement as I gather that there will be a tanoura or el-tanoura dance, a traditional Egyptian folk dance. We all take a break from the selfies we were indulging in, to take pics of the dance. My eyes wander around again though. Laughter and contentment fills the air. So this is what a souhour is, I think to myself. It is more than the meal before sunrise. It is about people, friends and family. But the dance starts and I leave my reflections. For the next 10-15 minutes we are treated to a surreal display of twirling, precision and colour.  The child in me rears itself and all I can say is Wow! A moment to remember.

Feeling peckish, we move from our sofa seating area to the 'dining' area where tables and chairs have been tastefully and elegantly arranged, ballroom style. Well, this is the St Regis of course. Everything is done on a grand scale. The menu is passed around. I like the menu. It combines the best of the street with what would expect in a restaurant setting, and our order reflects that - falafel sandwiches, chicken shawarmas, hummus, tabouleh, kibbeh and  a mixed grill. It really is  a perfect menu for such an occasion.

When the food arrives there are oohs and aaahs all around the table. As I pointed out earlier, I learned that an evening like this is not about the food, but what a pleasure it is when you bite into a felafel sandwich and get a bit of crunch from that felafel! Meanwhile, the effortless service continues and I am struck by the efficiency of the staff all around. I also see one of the St Regis banquet organisers mixing with guests to check on the evening - nice.
A memory that would linger.
By the time we get up to leave, the warm, joyous vibe is very much still alive. At the exit, one of our party gets some henna done, giving me time to play the evening over in my head. As we get ready to leave, there are no longer any strangers in our group. Friendships have become deeper,  acquaintances have become friends and strangers are no more such. It did not matter where we were from. It mattered not what our background or culture was. The fabulous St. Regis Abu Dhabi Souhour brought us together and while we could not tell what the next day would bring, we knew that in that moment, bonds had been formed and happiness was ours.

The low down 

St. Regis Abu Dhabi Corniche
Grand night Rammdan tent
02 694 4444

Mezze selection from 40 Dhs
Grill 120-220 Dhs
Shisha 85-110 Dhs

Brandon Stoltenkamp