The first week of Ramadan has already passed, and many of us are in the swing of things, settling into our Ramadan routines and hopefully having a fulfilling month! And while we focus on the spiritual aspect of the month, we also get to enjoy many of the activities and events that only happen during Ramadan, such as going to Ramadan bazaars, having iftar with friends and families, and preparing for Aidilfitri celebrations. But have you ever wondered how Ramadan is celebrated around the world? With a Muslim population of almost 2 billion spread across so many different countries (each with their own culture and customs),  it’s inevitable that there are many Ramadan traditions from different corners of the globe that would look different from how we do things here!

Here at HHWT, we truly celebrate the diversity of the ummah and we thought it would be enlightening to learn more about what it’s like experiencing Ramadan in different countries. We reached out to brothers and sisters from all around the world to hear about what Ramadan is like in their city, and are thrilled to be able to share their stories with you. This series will hopefully showcase both the differences and similarities between Muslim communities and create a greater appreciation of the diversity within the Muslim community 🤗 We’ll be sharing a new Ramadan Around The World feature at regular intervals throughout Ramadan, so keep a lookout on our Facebook and Instagram postings 😉

For our very first Ramadan Around The World feature, we spoke with Ruqaya Al Hamiri, who lives in Dubai!

Credit: Giphy

We met Ruqaya when the HHWT team went on a media trip to Dubai. We had signed up to attend a cultural lunch hosted by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding, a non-profit organisation based in Dubai that aims to promote awareness of Emirati culture, customs and religious practices amongst expatriates and visitors, while also breaking down cultural barriers. Ruqaya had led the lunch as our host, talking and answering questions about Emirati food, culture and practices in a way that was wonderfully open, engaging and welcoming. We approached her to ask her more about what Ramadan in Dubai and the UAE is like, and she kindly shared with us her insight.

1. How is Ramadan like in Dubai?

Taraweeh prayers at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Dubai. Credit: Islamic Community on Facebook

During Ramadan, Dubai changes so much! Everyone can’t wait until Ramadan starts, not only for its religious importance but for what also comes along as well from cultural habits! During Ramadan, the working day is shorter (working hours are shortened by 2 hours, and for public sector workers, working hours from 9am to 2pm!) so it means you get to enjoy Ramadan and indulge yourself in spiritual activities, like reading the Quran. Culturally, many of us would spend Ramadan in family iftars, staying up late until Suhoor time which could mean staying up until 5 am! As well, I can’t deny that many people spend the month watching Ramadan series on TV (these are TV programs and shows that are made specially to air during Ramadan!) too. One of the wonderful things that happen in Ramadan is the Taraweeh prayers in every mosque, where you get to focus on the spiritual side of Ramadan too. I think what makes Ramadan different here too is the fact that the people of Emirates are used to sending food over to neighbours as well to the local mosque to help break other people’s iftar!

Credit: Waqas Khan on Facebook

2. What are the timings for suhoor and iftar like during Ramadan in Dubai? Does it vary much between seasons – for example, is fasting in the summer months much longer than the winter months?

Fasting in Ramadan in the past few years has been in the summer season of the UAE. This means that we often fast for a long time, about 16 hours. In the upcoming years, Ramadan will fall during the spring season which means the day will be shorter that means the fasting time might be about 12 hours!

3. How do the different seasons affect fasting – for example, is it much more challenging in the summer months in Dubai, given how hot it gets? How do locals adapt to this?

Credit: The Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding on Facebook

For the past decade, Ramadan has fallen on the hotter months of the year, and that meant it was quite hot and tiring. The Government of the UAE had put in place a rule for all establishments to have fewer working hours during the day for everyone to help those fasting during the holy months. And for the past several years Ramadan fell on during the summer break for schools which meant a lot of people would take their leaves on Ramadan to enjoy it with their whole family.

4. What does Ramadan mean to you and how do you take care of yourself during this month?

For me, Ramadan is a time to be the best version of myself. This means I take extra care to be more spiritual and a better human all around. During the month, I pay extra attention to how much time I spend with my family and try to fill my time with volunteering, reading Quran, and praying Taraweeh with family and friends.

5. What’s your biggest challenge/struggle during Ramadan and how do you overcome it?

I think a lot of people think the biggest challenge might be the hunger but for me, it’s how I spend my time. Because of how Ramadan is in the UAE, many people stay up until the morning and then sleep their day away, and sometimes I do that and I feel like I’m wasting my day! As well as watching TV! As much as the Ramadan TV series are tempting, I try to remind myself that they will be aired again on TV after Ramadan and its better to focus on spiritually during the month!

6. What tips would you give to someone who’s visiting Dubai or the UAE during Ramadan?

Credit: The Sheikh Mohammad Centre For Cultural Understanding

  • Learn about the new working hours of business.
  • Try to experience mosque iftars.
  • Join group iftars like the ones we have at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding where you get to learn about Emirati Ramadan culture.

Credit: The Sheikh Mohammad Centre For Cultural Understanding

7. How is Eid celebrated in Dubai and/or the UAE in general?

In the Emirates, Eid is a morning celebration! For us, many people start preparing few days before Eid itself, where they would go shopping for the fulala which is a mix of desserts, fruits, nuts and of course tea and gahwa (Arabic coffee). The house is cleaned and prepped for Eid. On the morning of the first day of Eid, the family would start getting ready for Eid Prayer and would head out together for it, many people would bring candy with them to give children after the Eid Prayer. After the prayer, many families would back home to have a family breakfast and after that, they would start their Eid by visiting their relatives’ close ones and far. For children, Eid is about the Eidia, which is the money gift they get from adults. For everyone else though, it’s about visiting family and celebrating the Eid with them. As well the fact it’s a 3 days holiday, helps people indulge in family time and relaxation!

Credit: The Shekih Mohammad Centre For Cultural Understanding on Facebook

Ruqaya is the Education Administrative Assistant and a presenter at the Sheikh Mohammad Centre For Cultural Understanding (SMCCU). To find out more about the SMCCU and their events in Dubai, check out their websiteFacebook and Instagram.

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