The beginning of Ramadan in Dubai for me was a fascinating and special moment to witness, experience and understand. Welcome to a blog about cultural appreciation and how the event, an Iftar, is aimed to bring people together with goodness and kindness.
What was the event?
I attended an Iftar on the 6th May 2019 in the Atlantis in Dubai. Also, Ramadan had just started that day so it was the first day of fasting and the experience was special.
What happened at the event?
The aim of this blog is actually to split it up into two parts. I want to first discuss and introduce Ramadan in Dubai and then introduce the event I went to which was an Iftar, the breaking of the fast.
Firstly, Dubai in the 70s was a modest port. Their vision began to become bigger – I don’t think anyone, including the western powers, could have ever envisioned what is today’s Dubai that many love. Each day a new skyscraper is planned and built. It’s a place of obvious opportunities and status. But during the beginning of Ramadan I wanted to see and experience exactly what impact Ramadan had on Dubai.
Ramadan is a religious month practiced by Muslims across the world and over 30 days fast from dawn to dusk. Some of the key points in regards to understanding Ramadan, including fasting, is intended to bring the faithful closer to God. To focus on prayer and dis-attach from worldly requirements that this world deems to be required to live. In terms of fasting, it is deemed that to have a single sip of water would invalidate the fast – so try to avoid saying “Not even water?”. It’s a running joke in the Muslim community.
The period of Ramadan all begins from the sighting of a crescent moon which this year was sighted and seen for Ramadan to started in Dubai, where I was, on the 6th of May. It is also a period of time which sees Muslims donate to charity, feed the hungry and generally increase their good deeds.
The fast is then broken with water and dates at sunset – which is part of the tradition that dates back as far as the scholars see. This is the start of an Iftar. This was the event I attended as part of my adventure and this is the story of the Iftar I attended.
Firstly, an Iftar is the meal where the fast is broken signalled by the calling for evening prayers. Iftar is viewed to bring many blessings for Muslims. It can take place in a mosque, at home or in an organised setting – which is where I experienced and immersed myself in one. The Iftar I attended was on a grand scale. Sitting down in a constructed pavilion of fabrics and hundreds of staff, in the anticipation of hundreds of attendees the bright lights and the glamour. The structure was in a hotel car park – not any hotel, one of the finest in Dubai. It was for me, the first time experiencing the moment of breaking fast. TV screens surrounded the well-dressed room which showed the moment that the traditional canon fired in Dubai marking the end of fasting for that day. As soon as the cannon sounded there was a buzz as people prayed, drank water and ate their dates – a few also ducked outside for a cigarette as smoking is not allowed when fasting.
Glamour and exuberance in the delivery and the structural construction of the experience was evident. The symbol of this night was special as I witnessed a lot of families greeting each other and enjoying the moment of breaking fast together. For me, I was spending it with good friends and new friends. Although, I was not fasting, I was part of an experience that was culturally eye-opening.
Dubai as a whole does see some changes during Ramadan. These changes include eatery’s closed, large curtains and dividers hiding food eateries and not being able to eat, drink or smoke in public for non-Muslims. But it’s important to appreciate this culture and although it’s been globalised, and commercialisation has taken over on some elements, the observance is important to appreciate – even for those who are not fasting.
One thing to take away…
The Iftar was a time that reminded me that it is special to have family and friends together and that is what ultimately what events do.