Everyone you ask about Ramadan will most definitely tell you about time spent with family. The month has become synonymous with family get-togethers and a time when ties among members grow closer.
For me, Ramadan gives me a chance to look back at a year gone, and to look ahead.
This is a month that takes me down memory lane and across the years, and provides me with strength to move into the future.
Interestingly enough, thinking about it now, I can recall phases of my life during this month that can never be forgotten and that have made me who I am today.
I was 7 years old when I first started to fast. I still remember not being able to last until sunset. I can't forget the disappointment I felt when I couldn't. During my pre-teens, I wanted to be an adult and act like one during this month.
As my teenage years crept by, I did grow up naturally, and Ramadan was a time that I cherished, but still that deep religious serenity eluded me.
No matter, it was in this month that I completed reading the Quran, something I thought of as an accomplishment - a habit, something I continue doing on an annual basis now.
When college started, the fun thing about Ramadan was I would always get together with the guys and we would simply enjoy each other's company.
After my college years, I experienced Ramadan away from home for five years, completing my residency training programme in the US. Those years were different. The month felt different; I was at work when I had to break my fast. I was at work most of the day, for that matter.
When I was in my home, though, it still felt the same, albeit without the company of the extended family. People there would never understand why I had to fast during that month. A stranger in a strange land, I simply stood out.
It has come full circle now that I'm back from abroad. I can say that this is the Ramadan I had imagined since I was 7. Now, in my 30s, I have come to realise that sense of serenity I had yearned to feel all those years back. Ramadan has become a month of speculation, determination and a month when dreams of the future are formed.
Hassan Galadari, MD, is 33, a dermatologist, and lives in Dubai.