(MENAFN - Arab News) Malaysian Ambassador Datuk Syed Omar Al-Saggaf has invited Saudis and other nationals to visit Malaysia during Ramadan for a unique celebration that showcases highlights such as the Pasar Ramadans (PaRam) bazaars where Muslims buy food for iftar (breaking of the fast).
Saggaf told Arab News on Tuesday: "PaRam is quite a phenomenon and an attraction as they feature rows of stalls selling varieties of popular food and drinks for the breaking of fast not only in Kuala Lumpur but the whole of Malaysia.
"These stalls are indeed Malaysia's Ramadan attraction."
He said 5,000 Saudis visited Malaysia during Ramadan last year and tourist arrivals from Saudi Arabia from January to May 2012 were 31,957, an increase of 50 percent on the same period in 2011.
Al-Saggaf added: "This year, we're again inviting them as well as other interested individuals to experience a unique Ramadan celebration in Malaysia's various states."
He noted that although Saudis have the tendency to immediately come back to the Kingdom to spend the rest of the holy month, they have fond memories of Malaysia.
He said: "The PaRam bazaars are organized by families or individuals who want to cash in on the occasion.
"Everybody -- including foreigners like Saudi nationals -- could go to these souks and buy various native dishes before iftar."
Mohamad Shahir Sabarudin, counselor at the Malaysian Embassy, added there are thousands of these souks all over the country, adding during this festive season visitors can get to sample a variety of authentic and delicious Malay dishes.
Offered are special dishes like Popiah (fried spring rolls), Putu Bambu (cake with palm sugar and coconut steamed in bamboo) and Nasi Lemak (Malaysian coconut milk rice with anchovies). Food prices are generally cheap.
He added that neighbors also exchange food during Ramadan.
He said: "This practice is a throwback to the past but the idea is inspiring as it makes the neighbors closer to each other and promotes goodwill and friendship among them."
Al-Saggaf said in Malaysia one of the most eagerly awaited meals is the Bubur Lambuk (special porridge) prepared by mosques.
What makes bubur lambuk special is that it is prepared and distributed to the public free of charge throughout Ramadan and people are willing to queue up for hours in order to take home some of this traditional dish.
Mosques accept corporate and individual sponsors to support expenses in preparing the appetizing dish.
Al-Saggaf added that during Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan, there is the so-called "open house".
"Even if you're a stranger, you can go to a house to celebrate the event by eating food prepared for the occasion."
Various individuals hold open houses, from the premier and ministers to village heads and there is a lot of food available such as satay (marinated, skewered and grilled meat served with a sauce) and rendang (spiced dry curry commonly made with beef), among others
However, foreigners are advised to watch out for a major "Hari Raya" open house hosted by the prime minister for everyone to come and eat free Malaysian food on the first week of Eid and possibly shake the premier's hand.