In the last days of July, Emirati families across the country waited with great anticipation for the sighting of the moon that would announce the start of Ramadan.
Muslims across the world will come together for a period of fasting and spiritual reflection. Old friends will be reunited and families will see more of their loved ones during this blessed month than they do throughout the rest of the year.
Many misunderstand the true meaning of Ramadan, believing Muslims dread its arrival. After all, the idea of spending 30 days refraining from eating or drinking, from dawn until dusk, can seem like a period of great hardship and exhaustion.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Muslim families excitedly count down the weeks and days until the start of Ramadan, which will unite families, friends and communities in daily festivities to share the wonderful experience of breaking fast and engaging in prayer together.
Ramadan is a period of self-restraint when a person not only refrains from eating but also from anger, back-biting, gossiping and using profanities, while focusing on purification through fasting, offering prayers and good deeds.
For these reasons, you will find an overall sense of peace and tranquillity pouring over families in the UAE and Muslim countries all over the world.
Emirati homes are open to friends and family throughout the year, yet Ramadan intensifies the honourable traditions of hospitality in the country during the breaking of the fast.
Countless dishes are prepared in the majlis or living room of Emirati homes, where the doors are open to all. Absolutely everyone is welcome to break their fast and join in the impressive feast all of those homes offer each day, with mouth-watering dishes, many of which are prepared only during Ramadan.
The fast is broken during the call to maghrib prayer at dusk. A few dates are eaten and water is sipped to break the fast. The family and guests will then pray together, after which the festivities begin.
Knowing that all around you have accomplished this spiritual task together opens hearts and enlightens the collective mood.
Homes are filled with joy and laughter as families appreciate the blessings of food and drink with one another. Men and women gather together in the majlis to talk of pleasant subjects while others enjoy the light comedy TV series that are produced and broadcast for Ramadan.
After the gathering, the community joins to offer the last prayer of the day, usually in their local mosques, followed by taraweeh, a series of prayers offered only during Ramadan.
To enjoy good company and share the uplifting experience of breaking your fast with family and friends for an entire month is seen as a privilege and a blessing to Emiratis and Muslims around the world.
Other than the beneficial time of self-reflection and spiritual discovery, Ramadan provides many with the opportunity to appreciate the gifts of life that are often taken for granted, including prayer, family, friends, food, water and love.
As the end of Ramadan nears most will experience great sadness, knowing that a year will need to pass before they can experience the same purity of joy, peace and laughter of Ramadan.
* Taryam Al Subaihi, 31, is a freelance writer from Abu Dhabi who specialises in corporate communications
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