Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 1 October 2020

A month of meaning: 10 common terms to know during Ramadan

From dates to games, we define some of the common terms used during the holy month

Ramadan introduces a new rhythm to life in the UAE, and all that comes with its own terminology. From the Arabic word for dates and numerous spiritual references, to the names of a card game and the evening meal, here is a glossary of 10 terms that you can expect to come across consistently during the holy month.

Ana Sayum

You may hear this phrase uttered a few times this month and it means: “I am fasting.” This is a useful thing to say if you are ever unexpectedly offered food or something to drink during fasting hours.


An important feature of worship during Ramadan, Dua means appeal or invocation and is considered to be one of the most powerful forms of worship in Islam. In most cases, a worshipper raises both hands, as per the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, as they ask God for help and guidance.


The moment everyone is waiting for: marked by maghrib – the sunset prayer – and the traditional cannon fire, this is the time when Muslims break their fast with a meal or a light snack. The Prophet Mohammed broke the fast by eating a few dates before maghrib prayer.


This refers to a period of time – about 10 minutes before the dawn prayer, fajr, begins. This is when some worshippers begin their fast. It is not mandatory and some Muslims prefer to wait until the fajr call to prayer


This means a television series and is another favourite Ramadan tradition, one that has been going since the 1970s. With the holy month providing broadcasters with a captive family audience during the evenings, many channels wheel out their biggest musalsalat at this time of year. Expect the conversation in the second week of Ramadan to move from favourite dishes to the best TV shows.


Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National
Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National

This is a tent: what was once the traditional dwelling and essential survival tool of the Bedouin people transforms into areas where social gatherings are held after iftar. In the Emirates, it has become common for bigger restaurants and hotels to provide an oversized tent where friends can catch up, play cards and snack on a few evening nibbles.


Not to be confused with suhour tents, which are mostly used for leisure, suhoor is the predawn meal before the fast begins. This is a critical meal for anyone fasting, because hydration is so important, healthy fibrous foods are recommended to keep hunger at bay during the day. Avoid eating junk food or any other high-­sodium meals or you may be forced to endure a severe case of cottonmouth while you fast


Dates, a staple of the iftar table, take on special meaning during the holy month. This fruit is a fasting staple that was consumed by the Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan. A perfect combination of sugar, vitamins and fibre, tamr are a great way to reboot your system after fasting.


Taraweeh are the nightly prayers that take place only during Ramadan. Reuters 
Taraweeh. Reuters

The nightly prayers that are performed only during Ramadan. Taking place directly after the mandatory evening isha prayers, Taraweeh is considered optional, but Muslims are strongly encouraged to participate in the prayers during the holy month. Every mosque in the UAE holds taraweeh prayers that can last between 30 minutes to an hour. To respect those observing the prayers, no evening social plans should be scheduled before 10pm.


A card game often played in Ramadan tents or at home with the family. Banter is a big part of the game and the occasional argument will even break out among players during the session. But in a month of general goodwill to others, any ill feeling is quickly forgotten as players become distracted by tea or a plate of sweet treats.

Updated: May 8, 2019 11:31 PM

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