First Ramadan as a Muslim in Dubai: This German convert finds solace in her new faith

Mariam's journey culminated in the declaration of her Shahadah on a Friday, an experience she describes as lifting a burden from her chest


Mazhar Farooqui

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Martina Oberholzner, now known as Mariam. Photo: Supplied
Martina Oberholzner, now known as Mariam. Photo: Supplied

Published: Tue 19 Mar 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 19 Mar 2024, 4:09 PM

German expatriate Martina Oberholzner, now known as Mariam, is cherishing her first Ramadan in Dubai after her conversion to Islam earlier this year. The 26-year-old finds solace in her new faith's teachings with a German edition of the Quran.

Reflecting on her spiritual journey, the marketing executive said, "Even in my teens, I felt a profound connection to Islam. Though raised in a Christian household, I was always drawn to the teachings of Islam. I dressed modestly and often wore a sheila (head scarf). However, it was only in January 2024 that I went to an Islamic Information Centre in Dubai and formally pronounced the Shahada, declaring my belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as His messenger."

Mariam's journey towards accepting Islam began at the age of 14 when she first visited a mosque in her hometown of Munich, Germany. "Accompanying some friends to the mosque, I was overwhelmed by the open arms and warmth with which I was greeted," she recalls. "The sense of community and compassion I experienced left a lasting impression on me."

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KT Photo: Rahul Gajjar
KT Photo: Rahul Gajjar

As time passed, Mariam found herself increasingly surrounded by Muslim friends and acquaintances. "What struck me the most about them was that they were always the kindest, most friendly and the most helpful people, which was one of the main reasons for my conversion to Islam."

Born between two sisters, Mariam was introduced to the vibrant culture of Dubai during a vacation with friends in 2022. "I instantly fell in love with the city and knew I wanted to make it my home."

Her dream materialised the following year when she secured a job opportunity. However, her excitement soon waned as the company failed to meet her expectations. "I felt frustrated and unsure about my next steps," Mariam said. "Those days, I lived in Business Bay, and my apartment overlooked a mosque. Every time the muezzin's call to prayer echoed through the air, I was drawn to my balcony. The serene melody had a soothing effect on me."

That's when Mariam resolved to explore Islam more deeply. "I reached out to a friend and requested a German translation of the Quran.

In mid-2023, Mariam took a few weeks to unwind in Bali, Indonesia, where she unexpectedly immersed herself in Islamic culture.

Mariam returned to Germany in August to visit her family, but Dubai remained firmly in her thoughts. Determined to return, she began applying for jobs again, eventually landing the perfect opportunity.

Finally, in October 2023, Mariam made the move to Dubai. She felt an indescribable sensation as she began reading the Quran for the first time. "I can't articulate the feeling," she recalls. "But after just 50 pages, I knew in my heart that I wanted to embrace Islam."

Mariam's journey culminated in the declaration of her Shahadah on a Friday, an experience she describes as lifting a burden from her chest, evoking tears of joy from those around her.

Now Mariam is focussed on deepening her understanding of Islam and establishing her Ramadan routine. "I wake up for suhour and have iftar alone at my JVC apartment. My suhoor typically consists of a banana or yogurt: chicken biryani at 4am is a bit too much," she chuckles, noting that her iftars are also light.

In a LinkedIn post, Mariam expressed her joy about experiencing her first Ramadan as a Muslim in Dubai, emphasising the transformative nature of the holy month.

"Ramadan isn't just about abstaining from food and drink," she wrote. "It teaches us patience, gratitude, and the importance of giving back to our communities. Let's become together the best versions of ourselves, both personally and professionally."


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