UAE is really an amazing mix of the historical, the futuristic, the traditional, the modern, the most lavish and the most barren. it was Ramadan while I was there, which I have experienced in Mumbai but never in an Arab country and I had no idea what it would be like. turns out that it is illegal to eat, drink, chew gum etc in public during daylight hours (between about 6am – 6 pm) . This is weird when you are staying in a super big hotel and cant even have a glass of water in the lobby. The breakfast buffet was hidden away in a big seminar room and even when i went to lie by the pool i had to sneak sips of water from the bottle in my handbag. the theory behind Ramadan, as far as I understand it, is to free yourself from physical things so can concentrate on your spiritual side. Wikipedia probably describes it better:
“The most prominent event of this month is the daytime fasting (sawm) practiced by most observant Muslims. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat (sahur) and perform their fajr prayer. They break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib (sunset), is due.
During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from lying, stealing, anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backbiting, and gossip. Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided; sexual activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, and sympathy for those who are less fortunate, intended to make Muslims more generous and charitable.”
The only thing about it I find strange is that all that fasting during the day leads to complete gorging at night. the town comes alive after 7pm, all the shopping malls and restaurants open up till 2 in the morning and there is lots of eating and drinking and shopping and catching up with friends and family. Then a quick nap then up again before sunrise to eat again. its a wonder there aren’t more car accidents from all the tired and hungry muslims driving around during the day but I guess it’s somehting that you get used to – many muslims practice fasting during Ramadan from around age 10. There are exceptions – for pregnant women, the elderly, the sick – though even the sick would take their medicine during evening hours – and the very young, and there is apparently always a spike in dehydration and fainting cases at the beginning of ramadan, but over all I guess people have been fasting liek this for thousands of years and i imagine you would learn from a young age how to pace yourself and to take it easy during the day.
While we were there we did the BEST hotel lunch buffet in my life (except of course that there was no alchohol served as it was daylight hours and that buffet would have kicked arse with copiuos amounts of champagne). I couldn’t capture the vaste amounts of spectacular food but here’s a couple of glimpses-
we also did a dune safari – driving a big 4wd up and down and over and around massive sand dunes in the desert, and then also on small little 4 wheeler motor bikes (what are those things called?) which was great fun and the desert was just beautiful when the sun set.