Dear Ali: What were the highlights of Ramadan during your childhood? Have they always been the same? VG, Dubai
Dear VG: I always enjoy answering questions that are related to my childhood because I feel it brings rich history, traditions and beautiful stories that keep inspiring us.
The 1980s and 1990s will always be one of my favourite times experiencing Ramadan.
The reason was having my whole family around and living in a small neighbourhood; everybody who lived next to us was like a family to us, and we reached each other face-to-face, rather than just via social media today.
My beloved father used to take me with him to a different majlis almost every night during Ramadan, not to mention the many times that we hosted guests at our own majlis. It was such a great and rich experience, which requires you to be surrounded by many members of your family. Of course, it could still exist, but I'm sure many will agree that it doesn't happen as much as it used to because of our new lifestyle, not just in the UAE but around the world.
I miss how my mother used to remind me to deliver food dishes to our neighbours before the call of the maghrib sunset prayer. Almost every mother in our region would have a problem with the number of dishes that went out and never came back, which brings a smile to my face now. I remember how we used to say: any wrong act would anger your mother, but you try to lose her dish and she will turn into a monster.
Conducting Umrah, which is the small version of the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, is an essential trip for many Emirati families. I've conducted Umrah over five times and most of them were during Ramadan, when I was young and as an adult.
From an activity point of view, I remember how my favourite sports club, Al Jazira, would organise Ramadan football tournaments in its indoor sport hall, which used to be considered almost the best Ramadan sport programme in the UAE's history.
The atmosphere and the spectators' dedication to attend these games and cheer the famous teams and players who the club would host and fly in to play was something so big and priceless. I am glad I lived during these days.
Those were some of the highlights. They are in my favourite, beautiful childhood memories stored in my heart and mind.
Dear Ali: I heard recently that there is a passage in the Quran that forbids contact with animals during Ramadan, and that this leads to many pets being abandoned during the Holy Month. Is there any truth to this? LK, Abu Dhabi
Dear LK: Interestingly, there is no line in the Quran that makes such a statement at all.
Unfortunately, animals are abandoned because of various reasons, but not religion, especially in Islam, which states clearly in the Hadith "Prophet sayings" that a woman entered hell for torturing a cat, as she didn't offer it food or water, or take care of or protect it.
This is a small example of how Islam teaches us all to take care and appreciate animals and treat them very well.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
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