Ramadan in the UAE
Living in a city where foreigners make up more than 90% of the population, the local culture and traditions can be easily concealed by the expat lifestyle.
However, if you stick around in those hot, hot summer days, you will find that there is a time of the year where local customs and celebrations prevail and the year-round holiday feel of the city simmers down.
According to Wikipedia, Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ‘ramiḍa’ or ‘ar-ramaḍ’, which means scorching heat or dryness. Muslims all over world observe this as month of fasting and a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship.
Going into my second Ramadan living in Dubai, I can attest that the city changes like night and day during this period of time. Everything becomes quiet, the glamorous hotels turn off their music, the restaurants cover their windows and people have reduced working hours. To those who have never been to Dubai, imagine New York, the city that never sleeps, suddenly went to sleep for one month!
Personally, although I am not Muslim, I think people from all backgrounds can take the opportunity of Ramadan for any type of self-healing, no matter what that entails. I see the peaceful nature of this period of time as regenerating.
Now, in terms of how this affects us in the PR world:
As with anything, there are positive and negative effects.
The negative side is that beside the reduced working hours, there are also many people taking their holidays during this time because of the unbearable temperatures (can go up to high forties!). In the PR world, this means many journalists are unattainable.
The positive side is that with the journalists who do stay, we have the chance to enhance the bond we have with them by inviting them to Iftars.
According to Wikipedia, Iftar refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast at the time of sunset, during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
In Dubai, hundreds of Iftars are organized during Ramadan by hotels and restaurants. The food is served in buffet style and most places have an all-inclusive price per person. Iftars create the perfect opportunity to re-connect with the media on a personal level, creating long-lasting relationships.
They are also great opportunities for the clients to interact directly with the media. Companies should take advantage of this time in which business usually tends to slow down to enforce those connections.
Mohamed Al Hadary – Al Ittihad, Lisa Stoffel, Sharrah Khilwala, Ali Smadi – Al Bayan, Nadine Mazraani.