Ramadan Kareem. Ramadan is a really special time when you live in the U.A.E. Last year I strived to capture an Abu Dhabi Ramadan in photos so that I could treasure some of the things that make it unique. It’s a quiet time for contemplation and Abu Dhabi seems peaceful and even for those who aren’t Muslim there’s this special feeling in the air, not to mention special foods and treats that seem plentiful!
I highly recommend getting out and about and experiencing how people worship and spend the month. Lots of Ramadan is happening, right there in front of us all. Iftar tents pop up all around town and iftars are taken in the street, 5pm is crazy with food delivery guys running here and there, people are walking to friends homes carrying huge pots of food to share, the smell of bread wafts though the streets pre-iftar. I always love to stop at my local bakers – I have no idea how the guys who work there do it. It’s roasting hot and they are cooking up huge flatbreads one after another with sweat pouring from their brows whist fasting and always keeping a sense of humour.
If you’re taking photos then first chat to people. Find out what their plans are, where they take their iftar, how they break their fast, what their favourite foods are. Maybe take some food to donate if you’re going somewhere there is a community iftr in the street. I always love to wander round my old neighbourhood and invariably bump into someone I know who is running to the shop to get some last minute supplies or who stops for a chat and then I always earn something new about Ramadan. Always be respectful when capturing Ramadan in photos, and remember this is a very special religious occasion, some people will be feeling joyous, but others will be more cautious. Iftars in the street are often men only and women tend to eat at home. People pray prior to breaking their fast and often will not want you taking photos of something so private. One really fun thing to do in Ramadan is to go see the iftar canons (seen above). There are two, one in Umm al Emerat Park and the other at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and they are LOUD!!!! They are fired right as the prayer call goes to signify that it’s time to break the fast, and they are televised too if you can’t make it to one in person. We’ve taken a picnic to Umm Al Emerat Park to share after the canon has been fired, but one thing that I love there is that they come round and share dates with everyone once the formalities are over, whether you’re breaking your fast or not
If going to a street iftar is a little daunting there are other ways you experience this time, like the huge iftar tents at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque where they cater for thousands of people every day. I remember this before they had the air-conditioned tents and how you’d sit in the Mosque grounds and listen to the prayer call resound as people around you paused for a moment before breaking their fast. Many community groups and schools organise iftars too and it’s an amazing way to get to try the special foods from different parts of the Islamic world as everyone will bring their own specialities. Another way to contribute to the spirit of Ramadan is to make up meals and join a charity drive to some of the labour camps, or to just leave food items in the Ramadan fridges that are around town. We often make them with a few dates, some laban and juice, bread, labneh plus fruit and a few other items to make up a meal for those in need. My kids school always did a shoebox donation for workers both in the school and to be donated to others who worked in the area. Many of the people who come to the UAE as workers are male, and within a school that’s no different, but last year the girls and I made up female friendly boxes with feminine products and little extras like a body scrub and a chocolate bar. We taped them up in pink and marked them clearly as for females!!I hope that some of this is helpful if you’ve not celebrated Ramadan in Abu Dhabi before, or if you want to get out and take some photos of the things that make Ramadan special in Abu Dhabi. To find out more about Ramadan in Abu Dhabi and the UAE and a list of do’s and don’t’s you can read this useful article from The National.Wishing all my friends a very blessed and peaceful holy month,
P.S. If you would like ot see more of Abu Dhabi Ramadan in photos there’s some old posts on the blog here