Ramadan in the UAE: 7 sights and sounds that make the holy month even more special

Listen to the melodious recitations of the Quran or take evening walks around the 'snack alleys of Old Dubai'

By Nasreen Abdulla; Visuals: Rahul Gajjar

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Published: Sun 10 Apr 2022, 12:34 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Apr 2022, 4:28 PM

Ramadan is special.

As you go around, an air of piety and softness hangs over the land as people take a ‘break’ from the mundane to reconnect with the Creator.

From the early morning Suhoor and evening Taraweeh prayers to the coming together of family and friends for Iftar, the holy month truly espouses a general feeling of goodness.

Khaleej Times decided to soak in the Ramadan spirit as we went around town to check out the best experiences to be had during this month. From the special call for prayer to cannons firing at evening, there are several sights and sounds that make Ramadan dear to the hearts of every resident, irrespective of religion.

Here we list out seven of the best.

Cannon firing

One of the oldest Ramadan traditions in the country, the firing of cannons began in the 1960s to signify Iftar at a time when mosques did not have speakers. However, even though mosques began using speakers, the tradition continues to this day and has become part of the Ramadan celebrations.

There are various areas across Dubai and the UAE where cannons go blazing, signalling the end of fast as the sun goes to sleep. We visited Sharjah’s Al Majaz area where Sharjah police officers fire the cannon.

The great Iftar rush

As the time for Iftar draws near, the entire city begins to hustle and bustle with activity. While some believers choose to end their fast at home, others head to the mosque for a community experience, when the call for Azaan rings out.

At the Al Farooq Omar bin Al Khattab Mosque in Al Safa, at least 1,200 people have Iftar at the Ramadan tent every day. And as people from all walks of life sit should-to-shoulder within the mosque’s premises, the true spirit of Ramadan comes alive.

Sales professional Jaffer Ali, who lives in the area, said: “It is a great feeling to come here. I live alone and sometimes I don’t want to cook for myself. Here I can have Iftar with a lot of people. Today my friends came to visit me. They were supposed to head back to their house in Deira but got delayed. So we decided to have Iftar at this mosque,” he said.

After people end their fast, it is a lovely sight to see them head in reverence for the Maghrib prayers.

Snacks alley

Every Ramadan, it is advisable to walk around the streets and alleys of ‘Old Dubai’ late afternoon-ish. It is a veritable feast to look at the rows of tables outside restaurants and cafeterias laid out mouth-watering Iftar snacks.

From spicy pakoras to fried samosas to crunchy parippuvada, every kind of imaginable snack is up for offer in the alleys that hold tales of a different era hidden in its cobwebbed corners and old buildings.

Ghafoor Mohammed, a Dubai resident who helps out at his friend’s restaurant in Bur Dubai, said: “My friend’s father set up this shop in the 1970s. We have a lot of customers who have been coming to this restaurant for ages. It becomes especially busy during Ramadan. Some customers come from as far as Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. They buy frozen samosas from us in bulk so that they can fry them at home. The liveliest time for us is around Iftar, but we sell these snacks till 11pm. So we get people who trickle in after the night prayers as well.”

Taraweeh prayers

At nightfall, the melodious recitation of the Holy Quran fills the air as special Ramadan prayers are held at the hundreds of mosques across the city and country. Believers congregate in large numbers at mosques for these Tharaweeh prayers.

This year, owing to Covid protocols, the night prayers are limited to 45 minutes. Shehala Ilyas, 54, who is visiting Dubai from India, was at the mosque with her 12-year old granddaughter.

“I am coming to a mosque after over two years and I consider myself lucky,” she said. “Things have changed and the prayers are not as leisurely and slow-paced as they used to be. However, after two years of praying at home, I am happy to be back in the mosque, praying behind an imam along with other worshippers.”

Karak chai and ice cream treats

After a full day of fasting and night prayers, people make a beeline for their favourite treats. From karak chai (tea) to ice creams, the city offers a wide variety to choose from. As we visited some popular haunts in Jumeirah, we saw long queues of cars patiently waiting for their orders to be taken and delivered.

For some, it was a chance to nibble on a treat in solitude, while for others it was an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. Uzbek national Abdul Aziz, who has been in the UAE for six years and who works in the real estate sector, said: “Every day after Taraweeh, my friends and I drive through Jumeirah street for a snack,” he said.

“I used to stay here when I first came to Dubai so Jumeirah always holds a special place in my heart. It is our ‘boys’ time together’ and we try out different places every night.”

Global Village

Global Village, which has extended its run this year has laid out special plans for Ramadan. While those fasting can enjoy Iftar and Suhoor at an outdoor air-conditioned Majlis, there are various traditional performances by oud, qanun and nay players. Add to that some harp music, a magician and an artist-calligrapher, and the experience is even more special.

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Ahead of Suhoor, a Musaharati, also known as the night-caller, calls on people to start a new day in Ramadan- a traditional practice commonly found in many Arab countries.

Night market

One of the most-awaited shopping experiences during Ramadan are the night markets. From spices and clothes to henna and oud, everything needed for Ramadan and Eid is available under one roof at Souq Al Mirfa. The outdoor night market provides wholesome entertainment for the entire family with a children’s play area, shopping kiosks, tannoura dancers, stilt walkers and live food stations.

Stay-at-home mother Alaa Hassan who was at the night market with her family, said: “My kids are at the play area and I am using this time to have a shisha. We live in Deira and this place is perfect for us to come after the Taraweeh prayers. We come here often to have some tea, eat regag, and of course smoke shisha. It is a perfect way to end our fast.”

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