A typical day in Dubai during Ramadan
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is expected to begin in May this year. The Holy month is a time when the otherwise frenetic pace of the city takes a slow, deep breath. Spend Ramadan in Dubai to see a whole new side to the city, learn about the local culture, try authentic Emirati cuisine and experience traditional festivities.
The early meal: Suhoor
Ahead of dawn, observant Muslims awaken in sleepy camaraderie, to pray, and eat suhoor together, in preparation for a day of fast which starts with the morning Call to Prayer.
While on weekdays Suhoor is usually taken at home with family, weekends see city dwellers head to specially set up tents or restaurants to fuel up before the first light of the day, and the Fajr prayer.
The fast: Siyam
‘Siyam’ loosely translates as ‘to refrain’. During Ramadan, Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking or smoking between the hours of sunrise and sunset. More than just physical restraint; it also means abstaining from bad thoughts, actions and words.
The fast is a way of cleansing the body and soul from impurities and re-focusing on worship, atonement and expressing gratitude. Fasting is also about putting yourself in the shoes of those less fortunate and promotes participation in charitable activities. At homes, the kitchens get busy in the quiet rhythm of Iftar preparation.
A matter of respect
Ramadan asks that non-Muslims pay respect to those fasting. Eating, drinking or smoking in public are to be avoided. However, most restaurants remain open, serving behind screens until sundown. Also, bear in mind that businesses might work less hours to accommodate more family time and time for prayer.
Charity : Zakat
One of the five pillars of Islam, charity is particularly significant during Ramadan and the Eids. Special initiatives are setup by the government and many organisations and individuals step forward to help share the Ramadan spirit with those less fortunate.
According to Islamic tradition, the month of Ramadan is when Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Thus, Muslims read one-thirtieth of the holy book each day of Ramadan. Thus, by the end of the month, the whole Quran has been read and recited.
Breaking the fast: Iftar
As the sun sets (Maghrib), a pause falls over the city until the roar of cannons signal the end of the fast, and the proclamation of Iftar.
Dubai joins the world's 1.6 billion Muslims who traditionally break their fast like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did, with a sip of water and some dates.
Paying great attention to tradition, homes are at their hospitable best and hotels and restaurants pull out all the stops. Beautiful Arabesque tents come aglow all over the city, to serve gastronomical feasts.
The prayers : Taraweeh
The Isha (night prayers) and Taraweeh (extended evening prayers during Ramadan) are offered, and among the last ten days of the holy month, falls the Laylat Al Qadr (The Night of Decree) during which prayer is considered the equivalent of a 1,000 months of worship.
Festivities and socializing go late into the small hours with special religious events. Parks, markets and malls stay open for extended hours.
Soon enough, it's time for the crowds to disperse and get some quick rest before the next day’s Suhoor arrives just before dawn.
Ramadan is when the entire community comes together in a euphoric effort to become better human beings. Go ahead and accept the invitation to join an Emirati Iftar for unique insights into the local culture, and try not to worry about the kilos you may or may not gain.
Whether it is attempting the fast, helping the poor or general abstinence from bad behaviour, you can enjoy the holy month in Dubai by embracing the customs of the land, and impressing your friends with a respectful Ramadan Mubarak!