Archive for the ‘Ramadan’ Category


Iftar with Friends

July 14, 2013

Posted by Kanga.

It is that time of year again – Ramadan. So, we ventured into Dubai for an iftar meal with some wonderful people.

ten people at a dinner table

BBQ Delights put on a lovely buffet selection.

plate of tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, green salads

I started with salads – beet salad, cucumber, salads, and tomatoes.

plate of chicken, shrimps, and bread

Then meats – two kinds of chicken grills, shrimps, and naan (flat bread). I’m cheating a little on the diet. The shrimps are lightly breaded and the bread is bread.

cup of tea

The finalé – tea.


Ramadan Kareem

August 10, 2012

Posted by Kanga.decorated atrium, lights, stars and crescent moon
Mall of the Emirates Ramadan decorations.


Ramadan 2012

August 7, 2012

Posted by Kanga.

Last week we revisited the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for the iftar meal. This is an excellent program introducing tourists and ex-pats to Emirati food and traditions. The volunteers do a very good job of explaining traditions and are open to any questions.

man and woman dressed in Emirati fashion

We opted for “Eastern wear.”

people seated on cushions

We attended the event with some of our friends.

bedouin man serving coffee

Arabic coffee served by a bedouin.

containers of food laid out on the carpet

The meal.

young Emirati man talking with three women

Several young Emiratis volunteer at the center. During the dinner they mingle with the attendees to converse and answer any questions. Mohammed, from Sharjah, had his hands full in conversing with us. Our friends are all “old timers” in the UAE. DaddyBird and I, with our four years of residency, are the new comers. Mita came to Dubai about the time that young Mohammed was born.

interior of a mosque

After the meal, the group walked to the nearby mosque for a basic introduction to Islamic concepts and rituals.

approximately 50 people seated on the floor in the mosque


traditional buildings lit at night

After a walk back to the cultural center, it was time for dessert and a question/answer session.

dessert dishes laid out on the carpet

Just in case you came to this blog for information on Ramadan, here are the basics: Ramadan is a month in the Arabic (lunar) calendar. During this month, muslims fast during the day (sunrise to sunset). This means no food or liquids. They also exercise discipline by refraining from things like sex or smoking. The goal is to focus on being a better person. Once the sun sets, the fast is broken with an iftar meal. This meal may be done in the home, at the mosque, or at a restaurant. Another meal, suhoor, is eaten in the early morning hours before sunrise and the beginning of the next fast. It is not uncommon to stay awake most or all of the night and sleep during the day. Work hours are usually reduced to 6 hours (8 am to 1 pm, or 9 am to 2 pm). Some businesses close during the day and open after sunset.

For those in Dubai, we recommend the meal related events at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. During the other months (non-Ramadan) they serve both breakfasts and lunches. It is well worth the time and money.


Ramadan in Fujairah

August 15, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

We are halfway through Ramadan and you might be wondering how Ramadan in Fujairah differs from Dubai. There is certainly less activity in the daytime. There is no public dining in restaurants prior to iftar (meal after sunset to break the fast). You can, however, get “take away” food from several restaurants. In the afternoon, there is temporary market area where one can buy food for the evening meal (Ramadan Food Market).

Even at iftar time, the restaurants don’t seem to be busy (unlike Dubai) and I assume that this is because most people are eating at home with family. The bars are closed for the entire month and their employees are on vacation or re-allocated to other restaurants.

Following the meal there are prayers at the mosque, so the town is still rather quiet until this is over. Then shopping and other social activities begin.

Around 10 pm, things start to pick up. The Maktoum Championships are in full swing, including a wide variety of sports competitions – swimming, bowling, cricket, football (soccer), motorcross, interactive games (video gaming),”women’s games,” basketball, volleyball, tug-of-war, and more. I don’t know what the “women’s games” are and will refrain from making a stereotyped joke against my own. It is just a chance for them to compete in a protected venue.

So, we stopped to watch the first two motorcross races Friday night. The first one started at 10:15 pm.

a motorcycle racer

There was a grandstand for spectators.

small stand for spectators

And, concessions.

a man with a bicycle cart loaded with snack foods

Down the road a ways was the cricket game.

cricket players on a lit field

So, there is actually a great deal going on. You just have to be willing to be a night owl to see it or participate in it.


Ramadan, Iftar and Cultural Understanding

September 7, 2010

Posted by Kanga

Thursday evening we joined 9 of our Twitter friends and others at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a dinner and cultural exchange. The purpose of the centre is to help visitors (both tourists and residents) better understand Emirati culture.

First a little explanation for those who might not be aware – Ramadan is a month long fasting experience that occurs once a year. During daylight hours, muslims refrain from eating and drinking. At sunset, the call to prayer sounds and the fast is broken with a meal called iftar. The fast is usually broken with water and a date (the fruit – either dried or fresh), then prayers are said and a full meal is eaten.

Here are some of our friends, Mita, Lin, Dru, Maddy, Mohammed, and Khalid.
six people sitting on pillows
Here is the food. Biryani, Fareed (aka Thaleed), Harees, Vegetable Magooga, and salad. It smelled delicious! Tasted delicious, too.
nine large containers of food
After dinner, we ladies covered in abayas and sheylas. Men were offered the option of wearing kanduras, but I don’t think any took the opportunity. Then we were off to the mosque.
people walking through traditional Arab buildings toward a mosque
Once inside the mosque, Nasif, a volunteer at the centre, explained what goes on inside and the basic tenets of Islam in a very pleasant and humorous way.
people sitting on the floor inside a mosque
The whole point of this is one of cross cultural communication, to dispel myths and misunderstandings.
woman wearing a veil called a niqab
Along with dessert, we got a little fashion information. This is a type of veil called a niqab. (This is what all the fuss is about in France and a few other countries that assume if a woman is veiled she is oppressed. Wearing a veil is not required by Islam and is discouraged by the UAE government, as in, if a woman wants a government job, she cannot wear a veil. In the UAE, women wear them for their own individual reasons.)
woman modeling a face guard called a burka
And this is what is called a burqa (burka) in the UAE. It is a leather face guard designed to shade the eyes and face from the desert sun. It is usually worn by the older generation.

The volunteer staff were very open and answered any question frankly. It was a very pleasant evening. If anyone ever comes to visit us (hint) we will make a point of taking them to the centre.
camel shaped chocolates
Then we all had camel shaped chocolates (yum) and went home.



September 4, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

Here they are, two studs. Their manes blowing in the wind.
Arabian horse public art statute and a man
This is DaddyBird with one of the public art Arabian Horses. This one is called Open Doors, Open Minds and stands in front of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Thursday evening we joined some of our Twitter friends to experience an Iftar dinner presentation at the centre. I took plenty of pictures and will post them soon.



September 9, 2008

A clarification and a couple responses to comments

The dress customs I described apply only to Dubai, each country or region has their own twist on fashion. I was looking through a book of photographs of Dubai from the first half of the 20th century and, clearly, the dress for different age groups differed from the current practice, just as American fashions from 1950 differ from 2008. Burqa has been used to refer to the whole outfit, head to toe, but it is actually a leather or metal mask that covers some of the face (nose and cheekbones).

As for ogling, I do not make eye contact. The ogling happens even when I am walking with Daddybird. In part, I wish I could stare rudely right back at them. It is amusing to see just how far they will turn their heads around to watch a woman walk by. If their eyes could pop out of their heads, like in the cartoons, they would. Some women are bothered by it and take offense. I don’t feel threatened or creeped out. It just amuses me how extreme it is and how abnormal it seems.

John G – As for the Amazing Race, we will probably be completely in the dark on that one. We don’t have a TV and I haven’t had time to read newspapers. Maybe Paul keeps up with the news better than I do. If I see crazy Americans running around trying to catch a taxi, boat, or whatever, it will probably not stand out as unusual. Although, the cameramen following them might.

When we looked at our apartment, there were two apartments open in the building. The one we didn’t choose was on a lower floor, next to the elevators, and a little smaller. Daddybird started to make an argument for the smaller apartment, but I insisted on the larger one. Bigger is always better and I thought there might be noise from the elevator. There is a mosque across the street from this smaller apartment and therein lies the real rub. The call to prayers is broadcast 1 1/2 hours before dawn and several times during the day. Had we taken that smaller apartment we would have been waking up to the call to prayer everyday. Our apartment is on the other side of the building, so we are hearing the construction noise from the rapid transit train that is being constructed (and yes they are working around the clock), but that will eventually end. Most nights I can sleep through it.

Now, what’s new? It’s Ramadan! We can tell you now what we’ve been told to expect and later we can blog about what we actually observe.

Ramadan is a 29-30 day period determined by the lunar cycle. Even though the cycles of the moon can be predicted, the timing of Ramadan is still determined by the physical sighting of the new moon by a committee. Muslims fast from 1 1/2 hours before dawn until after sunset. This means not just no food, but no liquids either, which seems a little dangerous in a desert climate. The elderly, pregnant women, and others with physical challenges are exempted. However, when the sun goes down — party on. The feasting begins. Imagine 29-30 Thanksgiving dinners in a row. There is a lot of visiting of relatives during this time. There are also extra prayer times and meetings in the mosques where they endeavor to read through the entire Qur’an before
the end of the month. Then there is a big breakfast that must be completed before the morning call to prayer (1 1/2 hours before dawn). There are also special soap operas that air only during Ramadan and the devoted fans record them and watch them all. So, when do these people sleep? I do not know.

How does this impact us? Not much, except that public behavior is somewhat restricted. Out of respect, non-Muslims don’t eat or drink in public (the culturally sensitive ones, anyway). There is also no smoking, alcohol, dancing, or public display of affection (holding hands, etc.). Most (read 99.99%) of restaurants are closed during the day and open after sunset. Banks, stores, businesses change their hours of operation. Most people work only 6 hour days instead of 8.

At work, there is a coffee shop that is set aside for non-Muslims to go for eating and drinking. It is “closed” in that the coffee shop personnel are not there and we cannot buy coffee or food. We have to resort to instant coffee and whatever food we bring from home. The windows are papered over, so that no one can see us eating and drinking.

The Marks and Spencer and Toys R Us across the street are covered, and I do mean covered, in strings of what we would call Christmas lights. (As you can see in the picture at the top of this blog entry. I tried to add it here, but was unsuccessful.) They turn them on after dark (possibly only while they are open).

Immediately following Ramadan will be a three day festival – Eid Al Fitr – with more feasting and visiting relatives. I will have these days off from work, so hopefully we will be able to get out and participate in some of the festivities.