One family in Ottawa has decided to extend its restaurant hours from after dusk to just before dawn — a move inspired by home, allowing fasting Muslims across the city to enjoy community together.
"In Lebanon, our country, during Ramadan, all the restaurants open overnight," said Jad Al Bardan, manager of Phynicia, a Lebanese restaurant in Barrhaven. "So we just said like, we should give it a try."
"My country, in Ramadan, a lot of people are in the streets," explained Firass Al Bardan, Jad's dad and owner of the restaurant, mixing English and Arabic.
April 1 marked the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that Ottawa's Muslim community is able to celebrate Ramadan in person, as most health measures have now been lifted.
Observing Muslims are waking up in the wee hours to have a pre-dawn meal called Suhoor, before beginning a day of fasting from sunrise to sunset. Most families will break fast at home in the middle of the night, but the Al Bardans say there are families who will join them at Phynicia — from kids to elders.
The restaurant first opened its doors in December 2020, during the pandemic. This year is the first time it's changing its hours from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., then reopening again from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a recommendation made by customers.
The decision was met with a lot of positive feedback from the community, said Jad.
In the past few years, Jad said he's learned a lot from his dad and now he can bake the dough used for the pastries and pies they serve.
"The recipes across generations, like his dad taught him, and he taught me even though like I go to university," said Jad, a biomedical science student at the University of Ottawa.
"He's still like, I should know the basic stuff and I should know how to run the business in case, you know, something happens."
Jad said the Arab community has grown, especially in the suburbs of Barrhaven.
That's why the family brings in ingredients and machines from Lebanon.
"We shipped it in like a big container," Jad said. "Some of the stuff we can't find here."
Firass said he's "very happy" to see the restaurant full at 1 a.m.