We are in the middle of a holiday here – Eid al Fitr. (everyone just calls it Eid. pronounced “eed” like in the word “deed”) It celebrates the end of Ramadan – the month of fasting in which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex, from sunrise to sunset. Expats are expected to eat and drink in private.
Ramadan is important because it is believed that the Koran was revealed to Muhammad during this time. According to Wikipedia, Muslims practice fasting to teach a number of things such as patience, self-restraint, humility and submissiveness to God. It also helps people to sympathize with the poor which promotes charity and good will towards others.
At all times, but especially during Ramadan, it is irreverent to argue, gossip, act rudely, lie, cheat, act greedily, etc. In stores and while running errands, there did seem to be a sense of festivity and kindness, a bit like our Christmas season back home.
I arrived back in Dubai at the tail end of Ramadan. It is deadsville around here! The roads were much quieter, many things were closed or had reduced hours and the normally bustling coffee shops were open but closed, in a sense. Chairs were stacked and set aside and I never saw anyone buying anything, even for take away.
In Carrefour, the beautiful and bountiful selection of sweets set out for Ramadan was impressive:
This display had mounds of dates, dried apricots and figs, and all types of nuts:
Every evening at sunset, Iftar begins. Iftar is the big dinner Muslims share when
breaking the fast. I read that people usually start with a few dates and some water, and then settle in for a big meal. Around town, all the hotels and many restaurants put on lavish buffets. We went to one in a hotel near the Marina. Maybe we went too late (we didn’t arrive right at sunset) because there were few people there. It was in a huge ballroom and felt a bit like a wedding no one bothered to attend. There was a huge selection of middle-eastern food and what seemed to be the entire body of a lamb!
There was also a giant screen showing local TV shows. It was funny to eat while watching slapstick comedy of men in dishdashas and cartoons featuring women in the traditional Emirati gold-plated burqas. The clothes worn by nationals seem so regal and convey an air of authority and privilege so it seemed strange to see these depictions of quite the opposite.
For Muslims that choose to have Iftar at home, I read that it’s the equivalent of making big Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. Except that it continues for 30 days! Exhausting!
Many expats travel on this holiday because so many things are closed and it’s so hot outside. Since we just came back from our summer-long trip, we decided to stay in Dubai and take the opportunity to do some things around here that we haven’t had a chance to do yet, like go to Ski Dubai and Abu Dhabi. More on those later. We have 2 more days left of holiday and then it’s back to school and back to reality!