Ramadan and Advent
Advent is, approximately, the four weeks before Christmas. During Advent, throughout Christendom, the mendicant classes come out in droves. The organized professional mendicants ask for donations to provide Christmas dinners for the impoverished of the world, and toys for their children. The independent contractor mendicants, almost always men, have either photographs or verbal pictures of a wife and children, and ask for donations to provide a Christmas dinner for their families, which, one assumes, really means a liquid Christmas dinner for themselves. Laws in the West mean that door to door solicitation is likely to lead to a Christmas dinner at a County facility, followed by 89 or so more days of rather austere County dinners, so the licensed professional mendicants stand in front of shopping centres, or on busy street corners, while the unlicensed mendicants lurk in quiet corners where they will not be observed by the constabulary, or stand outside churches where departing worshippers are usually more open-handed than at other times.
Throughout the Islamic world, this phenomenon happens during Ramadan. In front of every shopping centre in Dubai is at least one and sometimes two of the organized, professional mendicants (Dubai Charities has an old-fashioned booth with peeling paint, while Dubai Cares has an elaborate donation receptacle with air currents that swirl the donations about). These mendicants are seeking the donation called zakat, which is an obligation of Islam. The zakat will go to help the poor of the world. Dubai Cares will fund education in impoverished countries, while Dubai Charities fund other services for the poor.
So, during Ramadan, the Islamic mendicant classes go about reminding Muslims of their religious obligation.
As in the West, the individual contractor mendicants are technically engaging in an illegal activity, so some take up stations in underpasses, while others go door to door, knocking up the residential flats throughout Dubai. They are almost invariably women, often with small children in tow. They have one session from late morning until early afternoon, then go home for iftar, and return after the evening prayers to continue their solicitations. Most have letters bearing what is, I am sure, a tragic story, but one I am unable to read, since it is invariably written either in Arabic or Urdu.
Arabic, I'm afraid, is understood by less than 20% of the residents in Dubai, but all Muslims recognize Arabic and, presumably, feel an obligation to be open-handed when a woman, wearing an abaya and niqab and accompanied by one or more small children, presents them with an Arabic document, even if they cannot understand any of it.