Dubai Moon Calendar, Religious Festivals, Ramadan

Dubai Moon Calendar

When we talk about the Dubai moon calendar, we are really talking about the calendar for surrounding emirates too. But what has the moon got to do with calculating the dates? The answer is that the moon has been associated with Islam for centuries, and is used to calculate the holy months most crucially, Ramadan.

We associate the crescent moon with Islam as closely as we associate the cross with Christianity, but it's interesting to note that the link wasn't there from the very start. Many inhabitants of countries which are now Muslim were worshippers of gods including moon gods, but for a long time Islam had no symbol at all. Only in the fifteenth century did Islam and the crescent moon become linked. However, it is by no means universally associated with Islam, and many Muslims still see it as a pagan symbol rather than a symbol of Islam.

However, the moon is a vital part of the religious calendar, just as it is in Christianity.

The beginning of the holy month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar Muslim calendar) is marked by the sighting of the new moon (hilal) . This means the beginning of a month of fasting during the day and celebrating at night.

Of course, there is debate about exactly when to begin Ramadan. Some people think that you have to see the moon yourself before Ramadan can begin, whereas others think it is acceptable to calculate the new moon astronomically. Other people follow where the moon is in other parts of the world, rather than looking out for the Dubai moon. Most people take the traditional view that it is better to look out for the moon yourself; this means that Ramadan begins at fairly short notice, as the moon is only sighted the night before the fast begins.

During Ramadan, you can see the difference in Dubai. The sun worshippers who normally crowd the beaches become moon watchers, anxiously awaiting the sign to begin the fast. Then the malls and restaurants, temples of overindulgence, grow quiet with neglect, while the mosques fill with worshippers. Dubai can often seem like a very Westernised city compared to its neighbours, but during Ramadan the visitor can see the Islamic values which underpin life there.

In the evenings, once the day's fast is broken, Dubai becomes a very exciting place to be. The first food is taken at iftar (the breaking of the fast at sundown) and after prayers families and communities meet for a large meal and celebration. Don't miss the iftar tents around the city, containing wonderful food and shisha pipes to smoke.

However, non Muslims aren't compelled to join in the fast in order to enjoy the iftar tents with friends. But you must be respectful. It is illegal to eat or drink anywhere in public in the day time. The city becomes more conservative during this time, so you should also avoid revealing clothing and playing music. As for smoking, don't smoke in public in the day time, but feel free to join in the smoking of a shisha in the evening. You can eat and drink in your hotel, but remember that restaurants will not be open for lunch and will probably change their evening opening times. (However, Dubai restaurants tend to have ever changing hours anyway.) Alcohol should be available in the evenings in your hotel.

Some people can't think of anything worse than having to restrict their behaviour on holiday. If you are one of those people, wait until the second Dubai moon has risen like a crescent in the sky and marked the end of Ramadan. But if you would like to see this ultra modern city embrace tradition for once, visiting during Ramadan could be interesting and fun.