A banquet-style Iftar - the evening meal that breaks the day-long fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan - was held Tuesday night at Parliament's Banquet Hall in Wellington. Herald senior journalist Kurt Bayer was invited to mingle with the guests of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation countries.
The Pakistan embassy official clutches his chest, a tortured soul.
"If you find some, let me know," he sighs, spearing some Saudi-inspired fish curry on to his fork, careful not to drip sauce down the front of his immaculate shalwar kameez.
The sun has finally dropped and it's his first taste of food in almost 12 hours.
The dignitary just spent a fortnight in Christchurch. He never found proper Peshwari naan bread, he laments with sad, faraway eyes.
He was, however, rather preoccupied while in the Garden City, arriving just hours after a gunman slaughtered 51 fellow Muslims during Friday prayer at Masjid Al Noor in the central city, and 7km east at Linwood Islamic Centre.
After a taxi from the airport, he went straight to the hospital where he was met with chaotic, bloody scenes. Nine of his countrymen and women would die. It would be four days before he checked into his hotel.
The March 15 mosque shootings inevitably hovered in the room last night. It was the second annual Iftar celebration at Parliament's Banquet Hall, breaking the day's-long fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.
But tonight, I was told, "just enjoy the food".
National dishes have been laid on by several Organisation of Islamic Co-operation countries including United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
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The colourful congregation had earlier pulled up in the ubiquitous Black BMWs and silver Mercedes: religious leaders, sheikhs, imams, consular staff, diplomatic odds and sods, high commissioners, politicians and bureaucratic sorts.
"It's a festival of food, like going to your neighbour's house and sharing your meal," explains the UAE's ambassador to New Zealand, Saleh Ahmad Al Suwaidi.
He ushers me towards his national dish: a whole lamb slow-baked over basmati rice.
"It's a partnership: lamb from New Zealand and recipe from UAE," he smiles, before rubbing his stomach and warning: "You won't want to miss this section."
But first, we must wait for the sun to go down.
The round table jokes about how easy Ramadan is to observe in New Zealand compared with the longer daylight hours of the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year. It's a difference of about four-and-a-half hours.
"Some people take a holiday for the whole of the month," I'm told. "They stay up all night and go to bed at sunrise."
"It's true," another joins in. "I go to bed at 6am on weekends."
As the sun sets across the city, shadows grow long outside the Banquet Hall windows.
Once it's confirmed the sun has indeed gone down, the sunset prayer, Maghrib, is recited.
As the performer's rhythmical, guttural notes carry across the otherwise silent hall, olives are snatched and bread broken.
A few murmur a prayer, 'Allaahumma laka sumtu wa 'ala rizqika aftartu [O Allaah, for You have I fasted and by Your provision I have broken my fast]'.
Plump dates nestled in bowls attract interest but they are dismissed: "No! No!" A personal stash of khalas dates appears, presented in an exquisite gold-embossed white box like fine Cuban cigars. They are a product of UAE-based date exporters Al Foah, the "torch-bearers of the industry", little nuggety stumps of nectar as fresh as an Arabian night sky.
While the diners cracked each other up with ways to shorten Ramadan days, the traditional fasting plays an integral part in what it means to be a Muslim.
Their bodies and minds become accustomed to the restricted diet.
"If you do it a long time, you get used to it," am ambassadorial aide shrugs, sipping some of the sweet cranberry juice.
"But when you feel hungry, it reminds you of others, of the poor people. It's good for your soul and your discipline."
Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa acknowledged the March 15 terror victims in a speech announcing a funding boost for support to ethnic communities.
After the UAE lamb, I scope out stuffed green peppers and a Malaysian chicken curry. There's just room for some Persian rice, displayed beautifully, manicured like a Japanese garden.
There is a lot of food. You feel compelled to try it all, mostly out of good manners, but also through a touch of greed.
"You have to have the baklava," I'm told by a passerby kissing his fingertips in appreciation.
The Turkish table has two types of the sweet dessert: pistachio and walnut. Which one?
"Both. Always both," my Pakistani friend says, laughing heartily.
"And," he says quietly, pulling me in close, "If you do find some Peshwari naan in Christchurch, let me know. The frozen stuff just isn't the same."
• A history of Islam in New Zealand