It is only during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan that you will find the Ramadan Bazaar, located at various places in the towns and kampungs (villages) of Pahang.
Essentially just rows of stalls selling varieties of popular food and drinks for the breaking of fast, it is a quite a phenomenon and an attraction, found not only in the state of Pahang but the whole of Malaysia.
It is Malaysia's nation-wide, month-long, delightful Food Carnival and Extravaganza.
The Ramadan Bazaars (Pasar Ramadan or Bazaar Ramadan in Malay) are different from night markets and Sunday markets in the sense that these Bazaars sell mostly food and drinks for the breaking of fast.
On the other hand, the weekly night markets have a mixture of light food, farm produce, clothing and knick-knack items, while Sunday markets sell mostly agricultural farm, river and sea produces for home cooking.
The month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, and is a month where Muslims must fast ("puasa" in Malay) from sunrise till sunset.
It is a month for spiritual reflection, prayers, and essentially training the body and mind to be a good, righteous, complete and perfect Muslim.
Fasting is not only forgoing food and drink from sunrise till sunset, but also "fasting" of the mind from unhealthy thoughts, the mouth from uttering bad words, the ears from listening untrue gossips about others, and the eyes from looking at prohibited matters.
In short, fasting and refraining from all bad practices and thoughts.
Hopefully the good qualities and practices cultivated will continue after Ramadan, thereby enhancing and making oneself into a righteous and better person.
Ramadan is also a month Muslims are exhorted to cultivate the practice of giving alms and donations to the poor.
The poor and orphans are invited for special meals during the breaking of fast and given new clothes and other personal items for them to enjoy and celebrate Aidil Fitri.
During this month, you will also find that mosques and suraus are a hive of activities at night.
It is the time of year when Muslims perform the Terawih prayers after the mandatory Eishak prayers at night. Mosques in towns and kampungs are lively and filled to the brim with congregations during the Terawih prayers.
The fasting month of Ramadan ends when the new moon is sighted (1st of Shawal month) with a Muslim festival known as Aidil Fitri. In Pahang and Malaysia, it is also popularly known as Hari Raya Puasa.
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The food traders, who are given temporary license at allotted spaces by the local authority, sell usually under canopies and huge umbrellas.
Stalls are normally set up as early as 3.00pm and by late evening they would be packed with people of all races.
For the stall traders, some of them part-timers, it is a time when they can earn extra income for the family to be used for buying essentials and luxuries to celebrate Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
These stalls attract Muslims and non-Muslims alike to their special once-a-year delicacies and favorite foods.
From afar you can sometimes see the smoke and smell the aroma of the ikan bakar (grilled fish) and the ayam golek panggang (roast chicken).
The dishes, cakes, cookies, kuih and snacks are those not easily found in one place during normal days. Hence the popularity of the Ramadan Bazaars.
Besides dates ("kurma" or "tamar" in Malay) from the middle-eastern countries, you can find your favorite food, whether it is the traditional Malay dishes, like nasi kerabu, nasi berlauk, nasi dagang, nasi beriyani or traditional cakes or kuih, like kasui, popia, kuih pelita, lepat pisang and popular drinks, like cendol, coconut, sugar-cane and cincau.
You can also find Kelantanese dishes of ayam and ikan percik, and evergreen Malay dishes like gulai masak pedas, rendang tok, opor daging, ikan kari, ikan patin masak tempoyak and other favorite dishes.
There will also be the always-popular light food and snacks like roti canai, murtabak (chicken and beef), noodles dishes like mee kari, mee bandung, mee goreng, laksa of Penang and Johor, and laksam of Terenganu and Pahang.
Well, especially after a full day of fasting, everything looks delicious, and in fact they are!
There will also be stalls selling traditional Malay costumes of Baju Kurung and Baju Melayu (especially for children), shoes and sandals, and accessories like songkok, kopiah, buttons and brooches for the traditional Malay costumes.
Ramadan Bazaars can be found wherever there are substantial population and residents in an area, and they are usually located in available spaces in the middle of towns, residential estates and villages.
In Kuantan, the main Ramadan Bazaar is located at Jalan Mahkota near the Kuantan mosque and MPK field.
In fact you will find this town padang (field) is packed with people who delight in breaking their fast with friends and families on the field, and then do their maghrib prayers at the adjacent state mosque. It is quite a new phenomenon, perhaps only found in Kuantan.
Other bazaar locations are outside the Stadium Darulmakmur, Sungai Isap, Beserah, and Balok, and there are many more smaller bazaars in areas near housing estates.
So remember, Ramadan is the time for the Ramadan Bazaar in Pahang. A time to enjoy, taste and savor the delightful, mouth-watering traditional and non-traditional food and dishes found in Malaysia.
It is a unique event and attraction no tourist or traveler in Pahang and Malaysia during the Muslim month of Ramadan should miss.
As always, from me...