What are the ingredients of a perfect iftar? We're well into the holy month now, and I've had the opportunity to sample quite a few in Dubai, both business-related and private, and feel in a position to reach some judgements.
One conclusion I've reached is this: the food doesn't really matter. It's all pretty uniform, and uniformly good too, so it's almost a given constant in the iftar equation (except at the Burj Al Arab - see below).
The two most critical factors in rating iftars are: venue and company. The right place and the right people go a long way to determine the other essential: iftar ambience.
With the optimum mix of these ingredients, it can be both a magical experience and a brilliant networking opportunity.
So top of the list over the past couple of weeks must be the media gathering hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Of course, the Ruler's iftar, with the leading lights of the UAE's media business in attendance, is a highlight of the Ramadan calendar. This year, rather than taking place in the Ramadan tent at Zabeel Palace, it was held in the splendour of the Asateer tent at the Atlantis hotel on the Palm Jumeirah.
Although it lost a little of the intimacy of Zabeel, it was more of a public affair in Asateer. The enormous tent must have held close to 1,000 people, and companies that had booked their employee iftar there that night must have counted themselves extremely lucky to have a personal appearance by the Ruler thrown in.
With such large numbers, it was difficult to get close to His Highness. But there were plenty of other interesting people around and it was an excellent evening's networking, with a lot of old friends to catch up with. I was delighted to meet up again with several old colleagues from Arab Media Group, who all seem to be prospering again after a tough couple of years.
Also high on the list was the DIFC Courts iftar, a much less grand but no less interesting affair. It's not every day you get to break bread with an Emirati judge, but I had a fascinating chat with Ali Shames Al Madhani who, over a bowl of lentil soup, gave me a tour d'horizon of the big issues facing the Dubai legal system these days.
But iftar is traditionally a time for family, so it's been a great pleasure to savour the special atmosphere of Ramadan with my wife and daughter.
The little girl, nearly 3 years old now, is really taking it all in for the first time, and is fascinated by the candles, glowing moons and twinkling stars many of the Ramadan tents put on. The Al Khayal at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel is always great for this sort of thing, a real Aladdin's Cave of delights, and right on the beach too. You can dip your toes in the Gulf after your meal - a real thrill for a 3-year-old (OK, for her dad as well.)
My only real disappointment was at the Burj Al Arab. Costing Dh290 (US$78) per adult, this was supposed to be a big treat, and I should have noticed when I made the booking that the receptionist marked us down for "international iftar". But we ended up in the poolside bar with the sushi and roast beef buffet, which was not the iftar experience I had expected at Dubai's most famous hotel. The drip of water from a leaking air-conditioning unit in the roof was also very unatmospheric.
But the Burj itself was as impressive as ever. My little girl's first trip, and all the glitz and glam, made it eye-boggling for a toddler fascinated by all things kitsch.
I will know next time to specify the "Arabian iftar" - as if there can ever be any other kind.