Ramadan is here and it’s a reminder for all Muslims to start stocking up on Vimto. What is Vimto, you ask?
If you must know, Ramadan wouldn’t be the same for a lot of Muslims if they didn’t break their fast with the cool, sweet, and refreshing taste of Vimto. Ah, heaven!
Let’s read on to learn more about the Vimto drink and what significance it holds for millions of fasting Muslims around the world.
What Is Vimto?
Even though the Vimto flavour is popular with fasting Muslims in current times, it originated in the United Kingdom in the early 1900s. It was invented by the soap factory manager-turned-herbalist, John Noel Nichols, in 1908.
This was in Manchester, England. Vimto is a bright purple sugary drink, made of raspberries, grapes, blackcurrants, and a lot of sugar! And we mean… a lot of sugar.
The same reason that Vimto appeals to fasting Moslems to break their daily fast, that Vimto is non-alcoholic is why it appealed to the Temperance movement in 1908 in the UK.
It was called Vim Tonic back then and it promised to give you vim and vigour. Even though the health-promoting claims were dubious, the Vimto drink was sweet, non-alcoholic, and refreshing.
The sales of Vimto are flat for most of the year, and then they spike up during the fasting month of Ramadan.
It seems that Muslims can’t wait for Ramadan to start so they can start the tradition of breaking their fast, and having their first meal of the day, known as Iftar.
How Did Vimto Move from Britain to Saudi Arabia?
The question arises, of course, how did Vimto end up becoming a crowd favourite among Muslims, especially if it was popular in Britain in the 1900s?
This happened when one of Nichols’ friends took some samples of Vimto to India, to give to British troops in the 1920s. Indians couldn’t ignore the refreshing sugary Vimto flavour, and it became quite popular there.
Slowly, it moved from India to Myanmar, Goa, Sri Lanka, and more. As trade moved along, by 1928, the Middle East was inundated by the Vimto flavour as well.
The Saudi commodity trading firm, Abdulla Aujan & Brothers, acquired the rights to exclusively import and distribute Vimto in the Middle East.
That’s when the tide really turned. And suddenly, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi were in love with the sugary sweetness of Vimto.
Why Is Vimto so Appealing During Iftar?
Do you know what Iftar is exactly? Well, yes, it is the first meal of the day, after Muslims have been fasting all day during the sweltering heat of summer.
But it’s more than that. It’s part of Ramadan which is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. The five pillars are:
Profession of Faith (Shahada)
“There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This belief is central to Islam, and this phrase is everywhere in Muslim architecture, literature, and even in the Qur’an.
If you wish to build faith as a Muslim, then you need to recite this phrase with fervency, and deep conviction frequently.
This is the Ramadan period of fasting that is so commonly known among non-Muslims as one of the major aspects of Islam. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is Ramadan.
In this month, Muslims are not allowed to eat during daylight hours. This applies to all healthy Muslim adults.
Not only do Muslims renew their gratitude and faith for Islam through this deprivation period, but also understand the plight of all their less fortunate brothers and sisters.
There is a religious duty in Islam to help the less fortunate. A fixed portion of every Muslim’s income has to be donated to charity. The richer Muslims use this money to build mosques, schools, hospitals and more.
When you give as a Muslim, you can secure the blessing that is associated with your charity.
Facing Mecca five times a day, Muslims pray on their prayer mats used expressly for this purpose. This happens at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and after dark. Men usually gather in the mosques to pray together.
It’s not necessary to go to a mosque though, you can pray individually or alone. If you live in a Middle Eastern country, you will hear the daily call to prayer that’s broadcasted through loudspeakers to the neighbourhood.
It’s a serene and faith-inducing spectacle for anyone.
If your health and finances permit, Muslims have an obligation to make at least one visit on pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city in Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims gather in Mecca to pray together.
It’s quite a spectacle to see and takes quite a bit of organizing power on behalf of the Saudi government.
More on Iftar
During Ramadan, Muslims have an early morning meal before dawn, and then fast all day (no water or food passes their lips). Then break their fast after sunset with an evening meal called Iftar.
Thus, you can see that a sugary and refreshingly cold drink of Vimto would hit the spot when you haven’t eaten all day and you have been working or walking around in the blazing heat of the Middle East.
No wonder Saudi Arabians and the rest of the Middle East loves the idea of having a sugary-sweet Vimto drink as the first thing that passes their lips after having fasted all day.
Not only does it taste great, but it also helps give parched and famished Muslims some much-needed calories after a full day of work, or school.
Muslims aren’t allowed to eat, smoke, have sex, or even drink water during the auspicious month of Ramadan. No wonder they crave the sweet Vimto flavour to assuage some of those cravings.
Filling up on Those Calories Is a Necessity
As you can imagine, eating one meal after a full day of fasting (no water either), means that Muslims have to make quite a concerted effort to get in as many calories as they possibly can.
And that’s no joke when it comes to Vimto. There are oodles of sugar in the Vimto drink, 4.7 g per 100 ml (that’s 94 grams in a 2-litre bottle!), which helps Muslims get in those calories fast. At least at first.
Getting that first sip of sugary syrupy Vimto helps calm their empty bellies, after which they can slowly but surely add in more nutritious and healthy items to their palate.
Is Vimto healthy, you might ask? Because of the high sugar content of Vimto, it isn’t exactly healthy. But that’s not the point here anyway.
Because of the strenuous nature of Ramadan, some people are exempt from fasting, especially if their health doesn’t allow it.
- Anyone whose health would be affected by fasting
- Anyone who’s sick or ill already
- Children (some start fasting early, but should be monitored closely)
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Menstruating women
The syrupy cordial Vimto drink isn’t popular merely for its bright purple colour but actually plays an important role in helping Muslims fast better and longer.
Vimto Has Become Part and Parcel of Ramadan
If you visit the Middle East during Ramadan, you will see displays of Vimto as you’ve never seen before. All stores and malls have astronomical and skyscraper-like displays of Vimto (Burj Al Vimto, someone online called it).
Not only that, but during Ramadan, tweets about Vimto, Google searches about Vimto, Instagram pictures with the Vimto drink, skyrocket.
Vimto is like that girl with glasses no one pays attention to all year long, and then she takes off her glasses for prom (Ramadan) and everyone is bedazzled by her and can’t have enough of her.
One out there reason that’s given for Vimto’s popularity also has to do with the Arabic alphabet. There is no letter ‘V’ in the Arabic alphabet, so Vimto has a sort of sophisticated appeal for being something so unknown.
Interestingly enough, Nichols’ the company that owns Vimto, says that any time there are troubles in the Middle East, sales of Vimto go down, especially if it involves problems with shipments to Saudi Arabia.
The fortunes of Nichols and Vimto are inextricably linked to Ramadan, whether by fluke or by divine intervention. Either way, we can’t speak about one, without speaking about the other.
Vimto and Iftar Are a Match Made in Heaven
As you can see, Vimto and Iftar are made for each other and will be together for a long time to come.
Now that you know a bit more about Vimto and its necessity to the Ramadan community, look up some Vimto fruit cordial recipes to mix things up. There’s a lot you can do with Vimto, besides drinking it straight up.
There’s Vimto ice cream, Vimto summer pudding, Vimto Iced tea, and more.
Start getting creative. And while you are doing that, join Crescent Wealth, Australia’s only Islamic Super Fund with 10,000 other Muslims. Grow your wealth without compromising your values or beliefs.
Learn more about Crescent Wealth here.
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Ethical Finance and Innovation
Dr. Sayd Farook is the Executive Director of Crescent Foundation. He is Group Chief Operating Officer of Crescent Wealth and Managing Director of Crescent Finance. He previously served as Advisor to the Executive Office of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In this capacity, he envisioned and executed strategic / transformation initiatives for Dubai and the UAE. Prior to that, he was the Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters, where he advised and served large corporates, multilaterals and governments in the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia.