Feature: Dubai marks Ramadan amid summer heat
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2013 - 10:00am

DUBAI (Xinhua) - Life in Dubai came to a near standstill during the days since the Islamic holy month of Ramadan started on Wednesday, while the nights turn into bustling social indoor-gatherings.

Summer temperatures soar to almost 50 degrees Celsius during Ramadan which started on July 10. As a result, there is much less traffic on the roads during the day, and while many people are on a vacation due to school holidays, business activity slows down to a minimum.

Work timing in public and private firms is reduced by half the regular hours per day, as it would be difficult for a human to abstain from drinking and eating for 15 hours with the regular workload amid the intense summer heat.

"It is more difficult than I thought," said Muhammed Iqbal, a 26-year old Pakistani cab driver in Dubai.

Asked if he thought of skipping fasting during the first days of Ramadan, he quickly denied. "Not at all, whether Ramadan is in summer or in winter, it is my duty as a believer in God."

Drinking in public during Ramadan is considered a severe offense and can be fined by the police, even if conducted by a Christian or Buddhist. A Muslim who breaks the rules deliberately in public can be jailed.

Fasting from dawn till dusk during Ramadan is one of the five main duties any Muslim shall follow during his life (the other four are the confession (shuhadha), the five daily prayers, the duty to donate and the pilgrimage to Mecca).

 "I drank a bottle of water in a taxi, but the driver, a Syrian, asked me not to do so and to respect his faith, because he was fasting," said Alan, a 32-year-old IT administrator from Leeds, Britain. "I apologized and waited until he dropped me at my home where I eventually satisfied my thirst."

Some non-Muslim residents and tourists spend their days for tours in the shopping malls or for sightseeing, such as visiting the world's tallest tower Burj Khalifa (828 meters tall).

"We were very aware of the Ramadan and we booked our holidays during July on purpose, because shopping malls are less overcrowded and empty streets invite for a ride in our rental car, " said Jo-Ann and Edward, a British couple in their late 50s.

For Muslim residents and visitors, most of them from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, flock to the malls and restaurants before sunset to break the fast (called Iftar) with the family and friends.

Mostafa, a 42-old Egyptian media consultant said he enjoyed only the first days of Ramadan in Dubai, before he will head off for Egypt to spend his annual leave with his family. "Being with the beloved ones in Ramadan is important to us Arabs," he said. " Fasting, praying and breaking the fast together is much more easy and more pleasant, I could hardly believe during this alone."

Asked if he was worried about the ongoing protests in Egypt after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, Mostafa replied that "the situation is only unstable in the center of Cairo, outside the capital life goes on normally."

But few Gulf Arab families dare to spend their Ramadan vacations in Egypt or other Arab countries that have been hit by the turmoil and this drives more Middle Eastern visitors to the gulf countries where most hotels are fully booked, despite the unbearable outdoor summer heat.


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