Sep 26, 2007

Ramadan in Dubai

Ramadan in Dubai

Mosque in Dubai. Photo: Getty ImagesAs Ramadan approaches this year, I am reminded of how this holy month is celebrated in Dubai. Ramadan is the holy month of fasting observed in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The month of Ramadan is particularly sacred to Muslims because the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), during this month.

In Dubai, Ramadan is especially interesting because it is a highly modernized city, with a broad mix of cultures and yet Ramadan is observed with respect and dignity in its true essence by all. On the one hand Dubai entertains people with concerts and shows and on the other hand the month of Ramadan is spent in contemplation, charity and the strengthening of familial ties. What makes Dubai unique is that it has a very balanced approach towards both the modern world and the traditional one.

While prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are the cornerstones during the month of Ramadan, preparations for this holy observance are underway long before. Festivities and promotions are organized by the government as an integral part of the month. One such Ramadan promotion is Dubai: The City that Cares organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This campaign highlights the importance of charitable initiatives such as the UAE Red Crescent Authority.

During the month of Ramadan, many organizations tend to have reduced working hours for their staff, especially for those who are fasting. In the past, business would slow down during this holy period. Over the years however, with several changes made to achieve efficiency while caring for the people who are fasting, it is business as usual and the normal business hours are covered in most cases with employees working different shifts in most organizations in the private sector. Schools have special hours too, to accommodate the needs of fasting teachers and older children. Islam is a tolerant religion and respects people of all cultures, races and religions. In keeping with this, non-Muslims in Dubai, are not obliged in any way other than as a sign of respect, to refrain the consumption of food and drink, chewing gum and smoking cigarettes in public during fasting hours (dawn to dusk).

Arabic sweets set out for the iftar Photo: Getty Images.In the morning and early afternoon during Ramadan, Dubai is abuzz with activities that would occur in any large city. There is a noticeable slow down in the evening when it is time to break the fast, iftar, and people usually partake of a light meal. The city then resumes a sense of heightened activity as shopping centres and souks (marketplaces) open up for business. Streets of Dubai are lit up with light displays emanating a warm and caring atmosphere. Coffee shops and tents on the beach and other open spaces – serving Ramadan delicacies are full of families and friends. These festivities are enjoyed by one and all.

After the first few days of getting used to waking up early for a meal, the month of fasting tends to go by quickly. There is a heightened awareness during that time of the spirit of Ramadan. Abstaining from food and drink during the day allows one to also focus on our behaviour in everyday life. In our busy lifestyles, this communal practice of restraint both physical and mental, gives one a sense of renewed purpose of life as a Muslim and member of mankind.

The conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan is pronounced by the sighting of the moon. Eid ul-Fitr (festival to break the fast) is a day of celebration. It starts with prayers at the mosques and then the rest of the day is a celebration with family and friends and visits with the infirm and elderly. All public offices and some private sector offices remain closed for the festivities. In true Dubai tradition, it is time to capture the spirit and enjoy the celebration, as I look forward to this beautiful blessed month of Ramadan.

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