YouTube is broadcasting the Maghrib prayers from Mecca, thanks to a partnership between Google and the Saudi government.
First Maghrib prayer of Ramadan broadcast live on YouTube
ABU DHABI // YouTube began broadcasting the Maghrib prayer live from Mecca last night to celebrate the first day of Ramadan.
The broadcast and the fasting will end upon the sighting of the new moon.
The live streaming, which focuses on the Ka'aba, the cube-shaped structure emblematic to Islam, is the result of several weeks of planning between Google's Emerging Arabia and the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information. Google owns the video-sharing website. "Everyone was on board, and it took us a few weeks," said Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, Emerging Arabia's regional manager. "It went live on the first day of Ramadan. On the first hour of Ramadan, it was already up and running."
Google was glad to help the ministry realise its vision, he said.
"This is really a move by the Saudi ministry ... to get more Arabic content online. That's the big vision here."
Many Muslims who observe the holy month but do not have satellite TVs would "love" to be in touch with Mecca, he added.
"We're enabling this, through our platform, and really the ministry has been very supportive in terms of getting that online."
For the 47-year-old Indian expatriate, Razaul Haque, the financial controller at JP Kenny in Abu Dhabi, the streaming is a welcome move but one he is not sure he will utilise.
Mr Haque, who will leave the capital for part of Ramadan, said he would have to see how he felt, after hours of fasting, before deciding to watch the live stream from Mecca.
He also said he hopes the streaming will include translations.
"When we get the preaching here, [some of us] don't understand because it is in a different language, in Arabic. But in Saudi, when it happens, they give the translation also, so you can understand in your own language."
While there is no language barrier for Muna Al Hashimi, an Emirati administrative clerk from Abu Dhabi, looking after her young son leaves her with no time to check the internet. She said she would probably watch the prayers on TV instead.
"I put it on when I'm doing other things around the house, taking an occasional glance at Mecca and the people going around [the Ka'aba] and it adds to the spirituality of it all," she said.
For Google, the live streaming is part of a bigger scheme to digitalize the world.
"We really want to bring all the available content in the world online," Mr Tarabzouni said. "We're pretty excited about the vision that is driving us ... Muslims and non-Muslims around the world are going to be able to log in, live the experience ... and see the Ka'aba is if they were there, which is something phenomenal."