The word ‘eid’ in Arabic means festivities, a celebration or an occasion. Eid Al Adha is the celebration of the sacrifice, signifying the end of the Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims all over the world not just those in Mecca will slaughter of a lamb on such an occasion.
The Story of Ibrahim
The story goes that when the father of humanity, Ibrahim (PBUH) was getting old and yet to have a child, he prayed hard and long asking the Lord for his blessings. Sure enough, his prayers were answered when his wife Hager bore him a son. That son was named Ismail. A few years later, Ibrahim (PBUH) dreamed he slaughtered his son. It was a very disturbing dream, but knowing about prophets, their dream is an order and he knew he had to adhere. The Lord says: “I shall test you to see if your faith is true, in your health, wealth and family.” Ibrahim (PBUH) told his son: “I dreamed I slaughtered you.” The son, Ismail (PBUH), replied: “Is that an order from the Lord, dad?” The son knew his dad was a prophet and his dream was no nightmare, so he listened to his father’s reply: “Yes dear.” Ismail said: “Then do as you are ordered.” Ibrahim (PBUH) took his son Ismail (PBUH) and prepared to adhere to the order. Just as he was about to execute his son, a sheep appeared, sent by the Lord to praise them both for their complete submission and adherence to his commands.Then Ibrahim (PBUH) was ordered to sacrifice the sheep instead. Of course, what a moment, what a feeling of relief! But here is the lesson: to accept whether the Lord exists or not is negotiable. It’s for you to search, ponder and reflect, and decide whether to accept. Once you have accepted, then you adhere.
During Eid Al Adha, we dress in new clothes and go to prayer, but afterwards it’s off to the slaughterhouse – no slaughtering is done at home. We commemorate the example of obedience from the human to his Lord and son to father, which is much needed in our lives nowadays. The meat of the lamb goes one third to the poor, one third to close friends and family and one third for us, the family, to eat. We hope that everyone in the world has food on the table that day. The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives and friends. Please visit your Muslim friends this Eid and say ‘Eid Mubarak’.
The Date and the Date Palm have been an important part of survival in the UAE for close to 7000 years, the oldest seeds found on Delma Island dating back to 5110BC. So important, that the United Arab Emirates could become the first Globally Important Agriculture Heritage System (GIAHS) in the Near East countries in 2015, and in August UAE University completed its first phase of Date Identification and Classification in the UAE.
The UAE being recognized as a globally important region for date farming in not knew news to the Bedouin and local farmers. They have utilized and harvested dates as part of their food source for survival in the UAE, as well as the use of the Date Palm tree for shelters built from its stalks and leaves. What makes the date fruit so important and perfect for survival in the desert environment is that they are easily digested, allowing the body to take full use of its nutrients. It reduces bad cholesterol, and contains, iron, potassium, Vitamins, B, A and, K, and 15 minerals. No wonder Bedouins were known to have survived on dates and camel milk alone. They can be dried and stored for future consumption and eaten year round.
The UAE currently grows about 160 varieties of dates and 55 species have been initially identified in the UAE University study. There are a staggering 44 million date palm trees in the UAE that produce 76,000 tons of dates per year. Dates are mentioned 26 times in the Quran, and the Prophet Mohammed PBUH was known to have eaten and sustained himself on dates alone. Therefore, the local population is not only connected to the Date Palm as a part of their livelihood, but it also holds special religious significance. Muslims throughout the world during Ramadan break their fast with dates.
This year, the Emirates International Date Festival will be held this year in Abu Dhabi from 24th to the 29th of November 2014. It’s a great way to learn more about this invaluable fruit.
A wind tower or Barjeel is the traditional architecture found throughout the Arabian Gulf, in particular Dubai & Bahrain, and also throughout Persia, parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its origins go as far back as Ancient Egypt, with examples of wind tower construction dating back to 3100BC. In arid climates the wind tower acts as a ventilation system allowing hot air to rise out the top of it, and cooler directed winds to flow down into the home. Wind tower houses along the Dubai Creek were constructed of palm fronds known as Bait Areesh and was the standard material used for constructing homes in the region pre-1900’s. The Coral or Sea Stone home locally known as Bait Morjan was constructed using sea stone and coral from the Dubai Creek which was stacked in a bricking fashion, set with a mixture of mud, sand, gypsum and sometimes limestone. Later the building was covered with a layer of sand, mud and rock for added insulation and protection. The oldest of these types of homes date back to the late 1800’s. Historians attribute the abrupt change in building materials to a fire that swept through the Deira side of Creek in 1894, virtually destroying most of the market and surrounding Areesh homes. Residents looked to a more fire resistant material in the construction of their homes and sea stone and coral were readily available.
At the turn the 20th century these buildings were considered to be the best type of home, and in the early 1900’s only a few landmarks, such as the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House in Al Shindagah were built of sea stone and coral using wind tower technology. In the past these types of buildings signified wealth and status. The later more elaborate homes were built with a central courtyard or majlis commonly seen in Islamic architecture, and the wind towers would be situated on one or more exterior rooms. This type of construction became more common as merchants and traders, and local families settled along the Dubai Creek and their living conditions gradually improved. The homes along the Dubai’s Creek eastern shore in Bur Dubai are separated into two sections, the Al Fahidi Historic District (formerly known as Al Bastakiya) and Al Shindagah where the Al Maktoum’s ruling family resided. The neighborhoods are divided by the Souq Al Kabir or Meena Bazzar,
In the 1980’s a restoration project began to preserve these original homes along the Dubai Creek. The area known as Al Fahidi Historic District, (Al Bastakiya) is the center of the restoration effort and the neighborhood, open to the public contains more than 55 homes. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has called this neighborhood home since 2004, and occupies one of the original wind tower houses. Visitors can take a tour of the neighborhood with the centre year round. The second phase of restoration is continuing in Al Shindagah area and currently you will find a labyrinth of historic homes and Mosques, as well as the Diving Village. The Sheikh Saeed House now a museum, is one the original residences of the ruling family and formerly the seat of government in Dubai.
These historic areas are open year round, but the best times to visit are in the cooler months so that you can spend more time in the beautiful neighborhoods meandering through the homes, art galleries, restaurants, boutique hotels, museums and cultural centre.
The Holy Month of Ramadan, or the Month of Fasting is one of the five Acts of Worship in Islam. More than that, it is a time for spiritual growth through self-control, discipline, and patience; an exercise in controlling one’s desires and increasing one’s good works in the hope of forming a new balance in our lives that lasts far past Ramadan. To the average observer Ramadan seems to be more about “not eating and drinking” than anything else. For Muslims, this act of abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours is the core of the worship, but certainly not the only spiritual act. Self- reflection, controlling one’s bad habits, abstaining from lawful things, such as food and water help one to appreciate and value such great gifts without which we cannot survive. It teaches one to not be wasteful, “eat to live, not live to eat”. The Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him said about eating and drinking “one third of your stomach is for food, one third for drink, and leave one third empty so it can do its work,”. During daylight hours one also abstains from lawful relations with one’s spouse, to teach one another to appreciation and value each other and to not take for granted the gifts that the Creator has given us in our lives, companions to find comfort in. On the other hand, abstaining from the unlawful in our actions and deeds, things such as arrogance, vanity, gossip and back stabbing, cursing, disrespecting one’s parents or those in authority are integral to the fasting process. The body, the eyes, the tongue and the ears, all acutely aware of the things we should avoid. In effect it is an exercise to enhance one’s character from the inside out. Charitable works are emphasized as well as looking after the poor, and increasing our prayers, particularly at night.
In a city with more than 230 nationalities, cultures and religions, Ramadan may feel like a time when the city sleeps during the day and becomes alive at night. Expats and visitors may be curious and cautious at the same time; why are most restaurants closed? Are the beaches open? Malls? Are there special hours for supermarkets? Can I eat in public? Should I wear special clothes?
While most restaurants are closed during the day, Malls, supermarkets, and most establishments maintain daytime open hours with extended evening hours. Employers follow the guidelines set up by the Federal Government and private sector companies are required to shorten working hours during Ramadan, and this applies to all employees, not just Muslims.
Eating brazenly in public could result in a ticket or a trip down to the police station so common sense applies. If you are in your car and need a drink, be discreet. It is simply a courtesy extended to fasting Muslims, and most visitors quickly catch on to the rules without a problem. Are some Muslims exempt from fasting? Not all Muslims fast during Ramadan, there are several exceptions; in particular young children, the elderly and feeble, pregnant and nursing mothers, the traveler and people with chronic illnesses that prevent them from fasting. Adults and care givers cook and attend to the needs of those not fasting and according to Islam this a considered a charitable act, so relax and again use common sense read, visit SMCCU, take advantage of the quiet roads and retail establishments during the day. Capitalize on the kindness of people; join Muslims for an Iftar, an authentic one, not in a restaurant or at a resort. Visit a work colleague, friend, a Muslim you know at a home Iftar or join a tent or a masjid Iftar feeding the poor by handing out juice boxes, or a fruit like an orange or a banana. It’s about everyone coming together fasting or not, in an effort to improve the relations we have with everyone in our community.
As to the topic of appropriate dress, keep in mind that modesty in dress is emphasized in Ramadan and all should maintain the same standards that are requested of them in malls and public places every day. Shoulders should be covered for both men and women, and women and men should mind there lengths, keeping in mind the heightened spirituality during the Holy Month of Ramadan, a month in which all of us should reach out to each other and exercise the absolute ultimate show of humanity and tolerance towards one another. For a list of Ramadan Do’s & Dont’s visit our Ramadan Etiquette page on our website.
A Source of Beauty and Life
According to legend, “pearls are raindrops filled with moonlight that have fallen into the sea and were swallowed by oysters”. And in various cultures and religions, pearls have been associated with beauty, longevity, and perfection. It was referenced in the Holy Quran as a symbol of purity. In this region the pearl was not only an object of beauty, it had been a source of life for centuries.
The warm waters of the Arabian Gulf produced highly prized colorful pearls with incredible lustre and luminosity. The UAE, in particular, produced the finest pearls in the world for over 7000 years. Pearl fishing was an industry that the whole community thrived on. In the early 20th century 69% of the total population of Dubai, 10,000 people, were engaged in pearling.
The pearl diving “Gahus” journey started with building the vessel, repairing it and getting the crew, which consisted of the captain “Nakhuda”, his assistant “Mijadimi”, a singer “Nahham”, the divers “Ghais”, the puller “Saib” and the trainee (as young as 10) and the cook “Jallas”. Each vessel, ranging from “Al-Banoosh” (15-30 feet long) to “Jalboot” (15-100 feet long), carried 15 – 18 crew member. Huge fleets of pearling vessels would set out to the oyster banks each season. The pearl fishing season was from April to September, and the crew survived on fishing, rice, dates and coffee, during the trip.
A Pearl Divers’ Life
Although the pearling industry offered potential wealth, it was also very dangerous for the divers, both physically and financially. They were given an advanced loan (some rupees and rice) at the beginning of the season to leave for their family to survive and that amount would be reimbursed at the end of the trip with the pearl findings. If the season were not fruitful, the debt would be passed to the following season or to the next generation.
Pearl divers worked from sunrise to sunset, wearing only a nose clip, leather finger protectors, a stone weight and occasionally a cotton suit to protect them from jellyfish. They would dive for 90 seconds, around 40 meters deep, and they would descend about 30 times in one day, and collect about 12 shells in each dive. Once back on the vessel they begin to open the oysters with the “Meflaga”, a curved knife specially designed to open and search for the pearl. If a pearl were found it was given to the captain, who would keep it and negotiate with the merchant, waiting at the banks on dhows, and the diver would get a small share.
Pearl trading was a highly skilled profession and a way of socializing, as traders would gather in coffee houses to do business and examine pearls. The traders had special grading tools to separate, measure and weigh the pearls. The value of the pearl depended mainly on its size, lustre, colour, complexion and shape. Pearls were often named according to their shape and color. “Dana” was the name of the most perfect shape.
The whole economy depended on the pearling season, as the money would circulate in the market and allow the community to yield the benefit. Pearls from the region were exported to India, Persia and Turkey and sold in European and Chinese markets and the UAE pearl industry boomed as it integrated into global markets.
The decline of the pearl industry in the 1940’s was due to many factors, the Japanese production of the cheaper culture pearls in 1921, the 1930’s depression that ruined the wealth of many customers, and the ban imposed by the Indian government on pearl imports from the Gulf in 1947-48. However, the discovery of oil in the 1960’s and the birth of the industry offered many divers and fishermen a new and easy source of income.
The Preserved Tradition
The pearl diving tradition and cultural heritage is a source of pride in the UAE. The Pearl Museum in the National Bank of Dubai’s Head office is home to a unique pearl collection which is a personal collection and donation of Sultan al Owais, a son of a pearl merchant and one of the NBD’s founders. The Museum is located in on the Creek and opened in 2003 for visitors. Its aim is to preserve the history of this tradition and to remind people of the origins of the Emirates and what life was like before the discovery of oil. Booking is required prior to visiting.