Mohamed Somji, photographer and co-director of Gulf Photo Plus, took his camera around Dubai to document the celebration of Ramadan in different parts of the city. Here’s what he came across:
During the last decade, in Dubai as well as other places, Ramadan has become more and more commercialised. Lavish iftar and sohour buffets are served in five star hotels, and sales and promotion tents are set up especially for the occasion. Even automotive dealers now see Ramadan as their biggest sales month of the year.
Having lived in Dubai for over 35 years, I wanted to take this Ramadan and revisit the city I grew up in: a Dubai where by chance you would come upon communal iftars. That a tradition, it turns out, continues until today and – thanks to the generosity of private donors and associations who serve iftar meals for thousands of people around Dubai – now mostly brings together lower- and middle-income workers from across the subcontinent.
About an hour before iftar, people start gathering. It is fascinating to see strangers come together like this: some engage in conversation while others recite the Quran or supplicate. Then, as the maghreb azaan starts to sound, a quietness descends upon the people who, within only a few minutes, complete their iftar and then clean up and head for prayer.
The range of food at these shared outdoors iftars may not be as widespread as that served in the $40-50 buffets in newer Dubai, but there is no beating their community spirit and camaraderie. At least in some corners of modern Dubai, the spirit and inner meaning of Ramadan has remained.