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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 May 2018

Ramadan 2018: Google tailors Holy Month search experience for Arab world

Qibla Finder helps direct Muslims towards Makkah in augmented reality while Qalam creates 3D calligraphy greetings  

Artist El Seed tries interactive VR goggles at the Google Ramadan Breakfast in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National
Artist El Seed tries interactive VR goggles at the Google Ramadan Breakfast in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National

Specialist online content is being provided by Google during Ramadan to help internet users navigate through the holy month with tips and reminders.

The tech giant is celebrating a decade in the region, and has used the top search results in that time to develop new products and applications related to Ramadan.

Google has created the augmented reality Qibla Finder, available through browsers to point the way towards Makkah, and Qalam – an interactive calligraphy tool to create 3-D Ramadan greetings cards and messages.

Results and the new tools are activated once users search for Ramadan related key words.

“During Ramadan there’s a spike in the information required for prayer times, card making, how to give to charity and how and when to fast,” said Najeeb Jarrar, head of brand and consumer marketing at Google Mena.

“We try and be more precise with the answers we are offering in Arabic throughout the month.

“People are interested in travel because of the Eid holidays, so that’s always a popular search.

“We see a lot of people searching about how they can manage their health conditions with fasting, and what kind of medication they can take during Ramadan.

“It is a time when people have large feasts, so we are seeing more people trying to find out how they can do this healthily.”

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Food is always a popular topic, with internet users often searching for new recipes to try for Iftar and Suhoor.

In the UAE in 2016, recipes for cheese and zaatar manaeesh and cheese filo pastry rolls were the top trending dish. A year later, it was spinach fatayer.

In 2015, the top trending dish in Egypt was shakshouka, a dish of eggs poached in tomatoes, chilli peppers and onions, and a year later it was pastrami and scrambled egg sandwiches and knafa with mangoes, according to Google.

Qatayef with cheese and Nutella were the top results in Saudi Arabia in 2016 and 2017.

Ramadan related health problems and food questions people are asking in the GCC are often different to those in North Africa, so Google aims to tailor the answers specific to that region.

Qalam (g.co/Qalam), a new web-application accessible through browsers which users can easily share with friends and family as their Ramadan and Eid greetings this year.

Google has worked with nine international artists and calligraphists to create more than 35 artworks which merge between virtual reality art and calligraphy.

Featured artists include the Dubai based French-Tunisian El Seed, whose designs incorporate calligraphy with graffiti, Tolga Girgin from Turkey who mixes calligraphy and typography and Soraya Syed, one of the first female calligraphers in Pakistan.

The Qibla feature has evolved over three years, and is available on the search engine to direct users towards Makkah and the correct direction for prayer.

“A very common search has been ‘where is Makkah?’ so we wanted to help people with that and make it easy for them to find out,” said Mr Jarrar.