To Muslims, the Holy Month of Ramadan is the month of piety, beneficence and blessings. Therefore, they look forward to its arrival by observing the appearance of the new moon, which signals the beginning of a new Islamic month, and greet each other by saying "Ramadan Mubarak" which means "Have a blessed Ramadan".Although Muslims all over the world follow the same religious beliefs based on the Holy Quran and the Prophet's traditions, each region has characteristic local customs which make Ramadan a unique experience in every country. In the UAE, Ramadan traditions already start in the run-up to the month of fasting, during the Islamic month of Sha'aban. On the eve of the fifteenth of Sha'aban, known as Hagg Al-Layla, Emirati children dress in their best clothes and go from house to house, chanting songs and poems. The neighbours await them with sweets and nuts, which the children collect in specially made cloth bags embroidered with traditional patterns. On the first night of Ramadan, the family gathers at the house of the patriarch, the male head of the family, for their first Iftar (meal of breaking the fast). Throughout the whole month, social life is focused more than ever on hospitality, family, alms giving and sharing gifts and popular dishes with the community. People sponsor charity tents to serve free meals of Iftar to the needy and sometimes even distribute Iftar meals to cars and passers-by before the call for the Maghreb Prayer. Following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the fasting is broken with a small appetiser of dates and Laban (buttermilk) throughout the Islamic world. In the Arabian Peninsula, the cradle of Islamic civilisation, people feel even more attached to their ancient Bedouin roots when they perform the rituals of old. Dates, the “bread of the desert”, are the most popular ingredients for Emirati Ramadan sweets and pastries such as Gars, a bread-like crumble with dates and cardamom. Other typical dishes in the Arabian Peninsula are Harees and Threed. Harees, a creamy porridge cooked out of ground wheat and meat, is particularly valued for its restorative qualities.
Setting up a Ramadan Tent
The General Directorate of Civil Defence has set a number of safety conditions that must be observed while establishing Ramadan tents in order to avoid any incidents of fire. All establishments and individuals wishing to set up Ramadan tents should visit the prevention and safety departments at the directorate and comply with its safety measures. They should also ask companies contracted to set up tents to strictly follow these requirements. The prevention and safety requirements differ from one tent to another depending on its purposes, specific requirements and materials used for manufacturing. The requirements set by the General Directorate of Civil Defence include the following:
- The fabrics, decorations and materials of the tents should be fire-resistant and must be sprayed with flame resistant liquid.
- The electric bulbs should not touch the fabric of the tent or its columns directly and the distance between them should not be less than 40 cm.
- The tent site should be away from electrical transformers as well as cooking areas, and all forms of smoking must be prohibited inside closed tents.
- In case of setting up a kitchen or a source of fire, it must be kept at least 20 metres away from the tent.
- Electrical cables must be placed inside plastic hoses, and automatic electric circuit breakers should be installed.
- Sufficient numbers of carbon dioxide fire extinguishers according to the size of the tent as well as buckets of sand should be kept inside the tent.
- Emergency exits marked in both Arabic and English should be provided for closed and air-conditioned Ramadan tents. There must be at least 3 emergency exits in case of large tents.
- Each air conditioning machine should have an automatic electric circuit breaker.
- Employees responsible for the security of Ramadan tents should know how to use fire extinguisher and water hoses. They should also be familiar with evacuation operations and communication and coordination procedures with the civil defence.
The practice of setting up Ramadan tents is an integral part of the UAE tradition. As the holy month approaches, many individuals as well as organizations in the country erect Ramadan tents that become a focal point for various religious and social activities throughout the holy month. People set up tents in open spaces and entrances of their houses to receive guests and offer them Ramadan meals.