Breaking the Fast: Ramadan Feasts on Four Continents

Millions of Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset every day during Ramadan, that first sip of water is the most anticipated moment of the day.

. A Syrian refugee family waits to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan, next to the Temporary Centre for Immigrants in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Spain on July 8. The family is from Aleppo, Syria, and they arrived to Melilla about four months ago. They fled war crossing through Turkey, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco before arriving to Spain. They are currently waiting for Spanish authorities to allow them to travel to Europe. Santi Palacios / AP

. A Muslim family prepares to break their fast in Tucker, Ga. on July 16.

In some corners of the world, Muslims fast for more than 20 hours a day, depending on when the sun rises and sets in their city. It is a physical and mental exercise meant to draw worshippers closer to God and increase empathy for the poor. David Goldman / AP

. Chinese Muslim women stand together before breaking their fast at Niujie Mosque in Beijing, China on July 2.

After a long day of fasting, the moment of pay-off comes in the form of "iftar," the evening meal that breaks the fast. For more than 1,400 years, many Muslims have been breaking fast in the same way the Prophet Muhammad did: with a handful of dates and a sip of water. Andy Wong / AP

. The Aazzab family waits to break their fast in Casablanca, Morocco on July 5.

Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. The celebratory meals give people reason to reconnect with friends and family, and gather around shared platters of food. Abdeljalil Bounhar / AP

. A Muslim family waits to break their fast in Istanbul, Turkey on July 9. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, one of Istanbul's landmarks is seen in the background.

Many cultures also share in special culinary delights particular to the month of fasting. Across much of the Arab world, a juice made from sweet apricots is a staple of Ramadan iftars. In South Asia, yogurt-based drinks such as lassi are popular. Emrah Gurel / AP

. A Muslim family say prayers before breaking their fast in Kano, Nigeria on July 5. Sani Maikatanga / AP