Hi from Dubai coffee people – the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
This post attempts to give a bit of background into the occassion and during the next month I’ll post updates on how this effects day to day life here in Dubai as I dig a bit deeper from a non muslim perspective and share my findings with the coffee community.
If you are considering withdrawing from bean juice for a while or even starting a fast now could be the perfect time to start. More than one billion Muslims mark the start of Ramadan today – their holiest month of the year, devoted to prayer, fasting and charity. After seven years in Dubai I admit I’ve never taken the time to try and understand what Ramadan (the name of the ninth month of the islamic calender) is all about.
Dubai Outlet Mall has undergone a transformation with Ramadan themed decorations, a special promotion, bargains and longer trading hours to greet customers during the 30 days of festivities. The mall is lit up with Ramadan moons and stars and you can relax in a Majlis-style tent and have a henna design with live traditional Arabic music of the oud, canon and violin in the background. he trading hours have been extended from 10am to 12 Midnight, 7 days per week during Ramadan.
But for a small minority, it is also regarded as an auspicious time to escalate violence in the name of jihad. As a result, experts expect a surge in terrorism attacks during Ramadan, when most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in a spiritual exercise that teaches discipline, self-restraint and generosity.
“The month of Ramadan has a special status as the month of religious spirituality and devotion. However, in Muslim tradition it is also perceived as a month of jihad, a month in which Allah grants military victories to his believers,” says a report by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute.
Let’s hope this observation is a media driven fad. Dubai is undeniably adopting western customs but can it transform into an impeccable blend of religion and modern culture from today onwards? Visiting Dubai in Ramadan will be a different experience altogether for the holidaying westerner with essentials such as water and food at all beaches, parks and public places banned. As the sunsets night clubs closed and live music/ concerts banned as Dubai life becomes vibrant inside Majlis and Jaimas (Arabic tents) that are set up all across Dubai.
Tents are well decorated with Persian carpets, stylishly placed cushions and offer exquisite cuisines and beverages that actually reflects true Arabian culture. Even after opening of the fast people stay there very late to socialise, enjoy food, smoke shisha and play games.
Fasting during Ramadan is an obligatory duty for all healthy adult Muslims. Ramadan, a lunar month, can last for 29 or 30 days, and its timing changes with respect to seasons. Depending on the geographical location and season, the duration of the daily fast may range from a few to 20 hours. Muslims who fast during Ramadan must abstain from eating, drinking, taking oral medications, and smoking from before dawn until after sunset; there are no restrictions on food or fluid intake between sunset and dawn.
This can mean that some fast all day only to feast at night? With reduced working hours and fasting in the day could this be a time to eat more, rather than less? I do wonder and intend to find out…..
Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” are congratulatory greetings used when the first day of Ramadan is announced (kareem means generous and mubarak means blessings). Suhoor is the meal in the morning just before sunrise – it is usually a light meal. Iftar is the time of the evening meal just after sunset, traditionally a light snack of dates and water, although this might no be so obvious in Dubai. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims have the following obligations
- No eating, drinking, smoking or sex between sunrise (fajr) and sunset (maghrib, rather than magrib).
- Curb undesirable emotions such as anger, greed, envy, lust, and refrain from gossip.
- Keep thoughts and actions pure and use the time of fasting for spiritual contemplation.
- Be charitable and help those in need.
- Visit friends and family members.
Children (cut-off point is about 12 years old), the elderly, the insane, travellers, pregnant or nursing women, sick people, and those who are fighting in battle are not expected to fast. Instead they should feed one poor person each day during Ramadan, or, in the case of temporary conditions, make up the days by fasting at a later date. Women should not fast during menstruation but make up those days after Ramadan.
My experience of Ramadan in Dubai is to respect it and as it’s 40-45 degree C here at the moment I can’t drink water or eat in public in daylight and risk facing a jail sentance if I’m caught. Urban legend has it that you end up in jail for the remainder of the month of Ramadan if caught, however it is more likely that you’ll get a lecture from the police and possibly a fine. The law says a fine up to 2000 / 2500 dhs or up to 1 or 2 month jail sentence as far as we know.
For example, in September 2008, a Lebanese male resident and Russian female visitor were drinking juice in an EPPCO petrol station in Dubai before Iftar, and fined 1000 dhs each according to an article in the Gulf News. Apparently a witness saw them and reported them to the police, who shipped the couple off to court.
It seems a surprisingly harsh outcome, unless there is more to the story than was reported!
Me & Ramadan
I have decided to abstain from alcohol for 4 weeks (after a 7 week break recently) and hit the gym hard and limit my time online to one hour per day. My working hours will be as normal as will my eating & drinking habits albeit discretely behind doors & under my desk.
Comments and questions on Ramadan are welcomed here – I’ll attempt to answer them and sincerely hope this is a peaceful time – whatver your belief! Cheers.