Tonight, Farook invited me to a tent for a meal at 11:00 p.m. As we
drove there, he told me that the labourers in the UAE wanted Ramadan to
last all year because, during Ramadan,
- Working hours, by law, are reduced by at least 25%; and
- There are lots of mosques (and Ramadan tents) with free iftars and
Certainly, during Ramadan, there is much more charity and provision for
On the way, we stopped outside a mosque where the imam was preaching.
'What is it called when the imam is preaching, but it's not Friday?' I asked.
'It's called a dawah
,' Farook answered. He tried to translate as the imam was preaching, but, mercifully, I had trouble following his translation.
After the dawah
, Farook took me to the Ramadan tent of one of the leading Dubai
publishing houses. I asked, and was told that most of the people who
come to the tent are poets and journalists, but they were very glad to
have me. Our host was the head of the publishing house, a Sheikh who
was not recognized as a Sheikh by the British, but who remains a Sheikh
to the Arabs.
Infinity TV came by to interview our host about the meaning of Eid. He
spoke of his youth when all the young boys would go throughout the
neighbourhood (all relatives) and ask for Eid gifts. This was before
the UAE had its own currency, the dirham, and each house would give
each boy perhaps half a paisa, about ¼d, which he said would be about ¼
of the current UAE dirham, or about €0.05.
Only at Eid would the children have new clothes and a few toys.
Today, he said, any boy can go to his parents and get €200 from each
parent any time, and then go out and buy the latest Playstation®
and the boys always have the latest fashionable clothes, so Eid is no
longer special, it has lost its traditional meaning.
After the interview, they brought out the food: Five goats, two roasted
and served over rice, and three steamed with rice and vegetables;harees
, a paste made from a puree of wheat, salt, and goat; some kind
of spicy macaroni, described as Italian, but I don't think any Italian
has ever tasted macaroni prepared in this way; and three
traditional Arabic sweets. I asked our host what this meal was called,
and he said 'sohour
is served 105 minutes before sunrise, so 11:00 p.m.
seemed rather early. My host said the old tradition was to get up
during Ramadan 105 minutes before sunrise, eat in less than 10 minutes,
wash in cold water, pray, and go to work in the fields before it got
too hot, quitting for the noon prayer and staying inside out of the sun
for the rest of the afternoon. Today, he said, he goes to work at 10:00
a.m., so he gets up at 8:30, washes, prays, and goes to work. (When it's
not Ramadan, he skips sohour
, so he has breakfast before going to work.)
I asked, 'I thought the morning prayer had to be prayed before
sunrise?' 'Islam is a religion that allows man to adapt. When men had
to start work at sunrise, it made sense to have the prayer before
sunrise. That no longer makes sense, so now Islam requires us to pray
before we go to work, and allows the morning prayer after sunrise.'
Our host asked, 'Can you eat with your hands like we do?' 'No. I'm
sorry, but I can't.' So our host had a plate and spoons brought out
just for my benefit. I tried a bit of everything, and paid no attention to what anyone else was eating, but at the end, all the goat was gone while the other dishes remained mostly intact. I ended up stuffed. Apparently, so did everyone else.
So we all waddled away from the sohour