With Ramadan almost here, I came to realise that it is my third Ramadan in Dubai, and oh how different it is to spending Ramadan in England. I have jotted down a little list of seven differences that I have experienced whilst spending Ramadan in the two countries.
1) Duration of fasts vary greatly. Due to the positioning of England on the Earth, fasts can range from being VERY short in the winters to VERY long in the summers. I remember that when I immigrated to England at the age of 11, my first couple of Ramadans were the shortest. I would break my fast as soon as I got back from school (Lucky me! Hehe!) at around 3 pm. It was like simply skipping lunch every day! Ramadans in Dubai don’t vary too greatly, in that the fast is broken in the evenings, roughly anywhere between 5 pm to 7 pm.
2) The call to break the fast is heard in different ways. The fast is broken at sunset, which is also the time that the call to Maghrib prayer is made. In Dubai, all the five Azans (call to prayer) are heard loud and clear, emanating from the minarets of mosques (There is at least one mosque in the radius of 1 kilometre), so there is no doubt about exactly when to break your fast. In England, the indication to break our fast emanated from a chunky radio that looked like a 90s mobile phone. The radio picked up the frequencies of local mosques that radiated the call to prayer into every home. However, the radio we had would always somehow mess up the frequencies and we were never actually be able to hear the Azan. This meant that we had to rely on the table of prayer timings, given by the mosques, stating at exactly what time the sun would set. Therefore, the beauty of listening to the Azan which is part of breaking one’s fast was somewhat lost in England, and simply a countdown whilst we watched the clock.
3) Ramadan is somewhat commercialised in Dubai. I suppose Ramadan in Dubai is the equivalent of Christmas in England. That is just down to the fact that Islam is a dominant religion in the East compared to the West. This has its perks, as anything related to Ramadan can be found easily and is widespread in the UAE, whether it be to do with cooking or gifts. Local brands have tapped into the month of Ramadan as a way to increase their sales and profits here. Iftar buffet deals are advertised greatly and is a lavish event not to be missed. However, I am noticing that Ramadan is also gaining popularity with industries in England, as I have come across Ramadan Calendars counting down to Eid (like Advent calendars for Christmas) and sections in the supermarket dedicated to Ramadan preparations serving dates and halal meat.
4) Moon Sighting is quite the debate in England. Since the new moon can not be easily sighted in the UK, this means that there is always a huge debate to the start date of Ramadan and the declaration of Eid too. I know the non-Muslims in England find it strange that some Muslims begin Ramadan on one day, whilst the other half begin on the next day, or even two days later. This is all due to the complicated business of preferring to follow the moon sighting of the country next door, home countries or even the holy capital of Makkah. I admit it is a shame and kind of ruins the unity of Islam. In UAE, the new moon can be sighted reasonably well and the scholars are usually united in declaring the start day of Ramadan.
5) Work timings are reduced in Dubai. The government in Dubai is kind enough to reduce the working hours for most sectors during Ramadan so that Muslims can rest, fast and pray with ease. This helps Muslims greatly because work can be quite challenging in the scorching heat whilst fasting. In England, work timings are just like any other normal time of the year.
6) Food is not allowed to be sold during the fasting hours in Dubai. I am not sure exactly how strict this ruling is and whether it is placed absolutely everywhere in the UAE, but I do know that you would be lucky to find any places selling food of any sort during the day time in Ramadan. Of course, this can be rather frustrating for Non-Muslims or even Muslims that aren’t fasting for any particular reason that reside in Dubai. In England, all shops sell food as normal, and I must admit, this can be rather tempting for Muslims, especially when you pass by a bakers shop and can smell the delicious waffles, but you know you can’t take a bite because you are fasting. Argh!
7) The ambiance during Ramadan differs. This could be perhaps due to the commercial nature that Ramadan has here, but the ambiance of Ramadan can be felt a lot more here in Dubai, than in England. The could be the combination of short working hours and advertisements regarding Ramadan special offers which makes Ramadan a “not-to-be-missed-event” or celebration in Dubai. On the other hand, in England, you wouldn’t really know it is Ramadan until a Muslim declines an offer to join you for lunch and explains that he/she is fasting.
P.S. Ramadan Kareem to all the fellow Muslims around the world! May Allah reward all of us greatly for our worship this month.
Have I missed any differences out? How is your experience of Ramadan compared to mine? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.