Breaking the fast with my team in Karachi

For most of us, starting the day without water, juice, coffee, fresh fruit, a little protein and a few carbs is unthinkable, and the thought of going through the entire day without any sustenance at all until sunset, which here in Karachi occurs around 7.30 p.m. in July, is quite unthinkable, especially with daytime temperatures regularly hitting a blistering 40 degrees C (104 degrees F), with humidity levels also over 95%.

And yet, 95% of our entire workforce — along with our entire nation and the rest of the Muslim world — are preparing to do exactly that every single day during the “fast” approaching the holy month of Ramadan as a sign of devotion to their religion, and to focus their minds and their bodies on their spirituality while enduring the pangs of hunger and thirst.

During “tours of duty” in Bahrain, Dubai and Riyadh, I have tried several times to fast along with my Muslim colleagues during the daylight hours, in order to try to understand a little more about how to deal with lowered energy levels during the month of Ramadan, but I must admit I could not find the physical or mental strength to succeed, as my daily regimen of diet and exercise requires regular injections of fluids, proteins, carbs and other tasty items throughout the day and night.  

The way we try to deal with this annual phenomenon here at Avari Towers is to ensure the working day is shortened to six or seven hours, and everyone gets away early in the afternoons to have a rest at home with their families before the breaking of the fast at sunset, which is always a joy to observe, as minds and bodies are recharged and filled with a sense of achievement and satisfaction from their daily sacrifice.

We also ensure all outdoor property maintenance is done during the nights or in the early mornings when it’s cooler, and all departmental meetings and training activities are scheduled for the early mornings, before sugar and energy levels drop too severely.

Taking all that into account, it’s still truly marvelous to see that everyone carries on with their duties as normal, and that our high standards of quality and service are maintained — achievements that are always greatly admired and appreciated by me, and especially by our happily surprised guests, as there seems to be a widespread misconception held by many of them that there is no point trying to do business during the month of Ramadan.

This may have been true at one time, as Royal Courts and business leaders moved to cooler or warmer climes during the month of Ramadan, dependent upon their location and the time of the year when the month of fasting was observed, as it changes each year. But in the modern world where business never seems to slow down, that has all changed, as businesses can hardly afford to take one day off, never mind an entire month when so much is at stake and competition is so intense for new investors looking to carve themselves a slice of the new Pakistan pie.     

The highlight of my day during this eagerly awaited time of the year, which seems to bring everyone closer together, has always been to randomly invite 10 staff members to join me to break the fast at sunset in our gardens, or at our Iftar restaurant, each evening. This practice allows me to connect with them in a meaningful way on a one-to-one basis, and to ensure that I meet, seat and greet each and every member of my entire workforce over the month — including our Parsis, Christians and Hindus — but most importantly, to just enjoy with them what surely must be one of the most culturally enriching dining experiences of my entire career, the deliciously spiritual Sunset Iftar.