Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan Kareem 2010 by Khalid Mezaina

Today is the first day of the holy month of Ramadan and  I wish you, your family and friends a Ramadan Kareem.

Last weekend, I was asked to contribute my thoughts on Ramadan for The National's weekly magazine M. I was one of the 14 people they featured and here's my piece (you can read the entire feature here). 

My Ramadan

As clichéd as it may sound, Ramadan to me is a time to spend with family. It’s the only month in the year where my parents, siblings and I eat together (we have different work schedules during the rest of the year which makes it difficult to share meals). So during Ramadan I cherish these moments and I have been feeling more strongly about this the older I get.

It’s also a time of giving and a time of reflection, which is something I prefer to practice in private and not really talk about. But sometimes I also find it hard to find the spiritual side of Ramadan because to me, the downside of the holy month is the extent to which it has become commercialised over the past few years.

The “celebration” of Ramadan feels like it’s all about consumption – the commercials, for instance, are so in your face during this month, whether it’s in the papers or on TV. It’s all about so called “Ramadan offers” which vary from supermarket deals to furniture stores, and which can be very off-putting.

I miss the days when there was a sense of Ramadan in the city, where you could feel it. But now it feels very much like it’s business as usual. If it weren’t for the closed restaurants during the day, you wouldn’t really feel Ramadan at all. Now, shops are open all day and late into the night and the Ramadan tents across the city all focus on spending more money on food, drinks and shisha.

Dubai has grown so much and I love its diversity and multiculturalism – but with that I find there’s a missing sense of community across the city. Luckily you can still find it in certain neighbourhoods where, during Ramadan, you still see neighbours and families exchanging food. I know that I am always looking forward to the harees (a traditional dish consisting of wheat and meat or chicken, crushed together to make it soft and paste-like) that we get from my grandmother’s house every day, one of my favourite meals during Ramadan.

I know a lot of people who associate Ramadan with not eating and doing as little as possible all day and then stuffing their faces all night. But that’s not how Ramadan is supposed to be –  to each their own, I guess. I just wish there was a little less commercialisation and a little more time to think about the meaning of the month.

Image by Khalid Mezaina