Monday, April 10, 2006

Holidays in the Gulf

In the West, holidays are known years in advance. Many companies have already announced their holidays for 2009.

But this is the Gulf, and some of us still aren't sure if today is the official holiday for the Birthday of the Prophet (pbuh), or not.

All Muslims are supposed to celebrate two holidays, called Eids. The first Eid starts with the first crescent moon after the Holy Month of Ramadan, and the second Eid is on the 10th of the month of Dhul Hijja. In addition, many Muslims celebrate the Islamic New Year, 1 Muharram, the Lailat al Miraj, 27th Rajab, and todays holiday, the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh), 12 Rabi'-ul-Awwal.

Islam uses a purely lunar calendar, with months lasting either 30 days or until the new crescent moon is spotted, which can happen on the night of the 29th. The Moon Sighting Committee goes out on the night of the 29th of each month and announces whether or not the next month starts the next day, or the day after next. Or (if one believes the US Embassy) all these dates have been determined years in advance by Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia and published, so there is no need to go out in the desert once every month to look for the crescent moon.

However, far be it from us to put the Moon Sighting Commitee out of business. So we don't know if it's Eid or New Year or not until the Moon Sighting Comittee gets back and makes its announcement. If it isn't, we all have to go to work; if it is, we don't.

Only this year, the government announced that New Year's Day would be on the first Wednesday after the New Year, which turned out to be 3 Muharram.

As of last Friday, the official government body hadn't announced if the Prophet's Birthday would be on 12 Rabi'-ul-Awwal (today, Monday, April 10) or the following Wednesday (April 12). An unofficial announcement of Monday was issued by the Arabic Al Khaleej last Thursday, but the other newspapers (Arabic and English) didn't report anything.

On Saturday, most companies announced the holiday would be on Monday. On Sunday, all the newspaper announced that the holiday would be on Monday, i.e., today. Later, several companies announced that, no, Monday would be a regular work day, the holiday would be on Wednesday. People who were out of the office on Sunday may have missed the announcement. Well, they should have called in from whereever they'd decided to go for their Monday holiday.

I can understand that it's a part of the culture and tradition that the New Year and the first Eid require a report from the Moon Sighting Committee; however, a holiday on the 12th day of the lunar month should either come 11 days after the first day of the lunar month, or on the first Wednesday, if the Gulf is going toward a Western long-weekend system. There were at least 11 days when the annoucement could have been made, but it was delayed until Saturday. Or Sunday. Or possibly Monday or Tuesday to announce the precise date of the Monday holiday.

Which, by now, I should be used to. But I'm not.

2 Comments:

Blogger redstar said...

Not used to it either and it makes no sense to me... This really needs to get sorted out!

1:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just love your blog. We all know that Australia know for it's ocean beauty. My ideal holiday experience should be with beach. I remember my last holidays in Dubai I enjoy very much in Dubai.

6:52 am  

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