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Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim

Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim

Despite constant reminders in local media in the weeks and days leading up to Ramadan, many non-Muslims seem rather clueless about the month’s significance.



By Bernd Debusmann Jr./senior Reporter

Published: Sat 20 Jun 2015, 12:20 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:16 PM

People breaking the fast during iftar on the first day of Ramadan, near Satwa bus station in Dubai. – Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Dubai - This year for me marks the first time I have lived and worked full-time in an Islamic country during the holy month of Ramadan. In my previous experiences travelling through Muslim countries during Ramadan — in Morocco and Turkey — the holy month was barely noticeable, with locals observing it quietly and in privacy, away from the eyes of tourists.

On the first day of Ramadan in Dubai, I quickly realised that the UAE is different. The first thing that struck me in the morning is how eerily quiet the city has become overnight. Dubai Marina, which is normally buzzing with activities even in the blazing heat of midday, has fallen completely silent, with only a few puzzled-looking Western tourists lurking on the pavement taking photographs of the skyline. The Shaikh Zayed road, which on a normal weekday morning has heavy traffic, seems desolate and empty, with only a few lonely cars speeding along.

The importance of charity during Ramadan was highlighted in Marina Mall by a small stand set up by the Beit al Kheir society, which provides assistance to some of the UAE’s less fortunate. In the few minutes I was observing, several young Emiratis came to donate.

On a negative note, despite constant reminders in local media in the weeks and days leading up to Ramadan, many non-Muslims seem rather clueless about the month’s significance. Outside the mall, for example, two Britons were poised to light up cigarettes before being gently reminded by a security guard that they are prohibited from doing so. They got lucky — it would have been incredibly stupid to risk a Dh2,000 fine and a month in jail.

At first glance, it seems that for many non-Muslim foreign residents, Ramadan is a month of enforced prohibition of several things, but without understanding the history or religious and social significance of it. I wonder how many non-Muslim expats know what the Taraweeh prayers are, or even why their Muslim friends and colleagues are fasting. -bernd@khaleejtimes.com


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