One of the most important things an expat can do is to learn as much as possible about the culture, traditions, and religions of his or her new home. As an expat in Dubai, it can be hard at first to grasp how such a fast-paced city can slow down so much for the entire month of Ramadan. I’ve come to learn so much about this incredibly special time of year – both through friends and business associates as well as through my own desire to become more immersed in the country and culture of this place that I respect so deeply.
I see Ramadan as a time for people to focus on spirituality, to remember the suffering that came before them, and to be thankful for that which is given to them now. It’s a time for family and friends and coming together. It’s also a time to exercise discipline and to improve upon oneself both spiritually and morally through the Five Pillars of Islam.
One aspect that really stands out to me is the practice of fasting from sunrise to sundown. Growing up, I had several friends who were from different religions – many of which incorporated fasting – and throughout all of them, there is a common thread. Fasting is a form of physical discipline that translates to both moral and ethical behaviour. It’s also a way to remember and honour both the history and suffering of those who have come before and have paved the way for the current generations.
And while there might be something of a disconnect here and there, it’s still incredibly moving to see how tradition can bring people together, to be appreciative of each other, and to remember who and where they come from.
Socially speaking, Ramadan is a time to recentre, to be grateful, and to be inclusive. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this firsthand, having been so warmly welcomed to spend time with friends and business partners and being allowed the opportunity to get to know them and their families on a much deeper level. I am in awe of how so many people put aside so much to reflect upon and strengthen their spiritual connection to a higher power. It’s nearly impossible to not be moved by such a steadfast devotion of faith.
Last month I had the opportunity to take Bella Hadid to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Enraptured by its beauty, we were both overwhelmed with emotion. Here were Imams reading 30 chapters of the Quran every day nonstop, taking breaks for only the basic needs of life. Although Bella is Muslim, you don’t need to be part of the religion to understand how powerful and true a devotion like this is. Everything about and within the mosque stemmed from the deepest of loves.
To me, a devotion to something greater than you is what spirituality and religion is all about. It’s understanding and reminding yourself that you as one person do not know all things that are true.
Faith is powerful. It can bring people together or tear them apart. But Ramadan is a time when you truly do get to see how it brings people together in an incredibly inclusive way. I’ve personally used this time of year to look not just inwards, but also outside of myself and at the world around me. I’ve used it to reflect upon and honour other people’s struggles and to give what I can. What does Ramadan mean to you?
Celebrate global talent sprung from regional roots this Eid
1. Shoes, Dhs2,960, Darmaki at Level Shoes. 2. Ring, Dhs11,810, Azza Fahmy. 3. Earrings, Dhs3,813, Noor Fares at Sauce Rocks. 4. Bracelet, Dhs2,400, Bil Arbi at Ounass. 5. Clutch, Dhs3,130 L'Afshar at The Luxury Arcade.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia.
Hair and Make-up: Blow Out & Go
Photography: Richard Hall