My visit to Dubai last year was more of a family reunion and we had a whale of a time catching up with each other. It wasn’t the best part of the year to visit the place, though. The temperature was high and the heat getting fiercer with each passing day. Family, fun, frolic and shopping – things couldn’t have been better! Another thing that coincided with my visit was Ramadan, the month of retribution before the month of celebration.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic Calendar Year, a month when the "Holy Koran or Quran" was revealed from heaven by Allah for human beings in 615 AD, as a guidance and declaration. The Islamic Calendar is based on the Lunar calendar (based on the moon and not the sun). To start fasting one has to sight the crescent of the new moon with one's naked eyes. It is a period of worship and contemplation.
The fast each day is traditionally started with Souhoor before sunrise and broken with Iftar after sunset. Fasts are observed for 29-30 days and during daylight hours. With the end of the customary fasting during Ramadan, Id-Ul-Fitr (Feast of Fast-Breaking) is celebrated for 3 days.
My visit fell during that month of fast and prayers. The whole of Dubai virtually had a shutdown during the fasting period. In this scenario, we could only get to move around during the evenings around the sun down time. It was a marvelous sight watching people gather, eat, talk and breaking fast. The shopping malls got lively only after sun down and remained opened all through the night. It seemed as if the day had just begun! I still remember the strange gazes, the looks of utter disbelief, of the people waiting in the lounge in the hospital when I was emptying a packet of chips in hunger. Little did I realize that it was so uncustomary and thoughtless of me to eat at that time of the day when Muslims could not! I felt horrible and I don't think I can ever get over that thought. "When in Rome behave like the Romans" - couldn't have been more relevant than that day!
The month of Ramadan is the curtain raiser for the Id-Ul-Fitr, and it was beautiful being a part of the experience. The shopping malls, the apartments, the hospitals and every public place had beautiful and creative rest places built, in the form of tents with lavish settees. This was accompanied by all kinds of goodies and refreshments like dates, dry fruits, customary drinks and these tents were open for anyone and everyone in the evenings . It was such a nice feeling getting to experience the warmth and love of the people, their customs and the country.
We used to move around in the evenings, for that was most congenial for shopping or looking around. We would have a blast while shopping and listening to my sister's stories and experiences of the shops and destinations. That was all that mattered at the end of the day– yes covetedfamily time.
On one such day, we headed out for some impromptu shopping. However, our shopping expedition ended abruptly as we encountered some pristine Ramadan prayers. We watched, listened and seeped in the mesmerising experience through the soulful rendition of some kind of prayer that I could not understand. All that I understood was the beautiful, hard-to-define elevation that I was left with. We came back home from shopping empty handed that day, but with an inner peace that’s going to stay with us forever, for always.