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The importance of Fridays in UAE

Prayers remain topmost on the minds of many on the day but family and social gatherings are not far behind.

Image Credit:Gulf News archive
An Emirati family soak in the view at Dubai Creek on a Friday. Many Emiratis have said it is important for authorities to educate expatriates on the importance of Fridays.
Gulf News

Dubai: Friday is not just a day for prayer. It goes beyond to include the spirit of togetherness - where there is eating and spending time together as a family.

'Friday' in Arabic is 'Juma', which symbolises a gathering of all Muslims across the world to perform dhuhur prayers [the second daily prayer that takes place after midday].

Gulf News spoke to Emiratis to find out what Friday means to them and what they thought expatriates should know.

Jack, the expatriate, for example, had never been to the Middle-East and recently he got a job offer in the UAE. He was informed that the job interview would be on a Sunday. When he asked to reschedule it to Friday, he was informed that it was not possible as it was a day of rest.

May Hameed, historical researcher at Dubai Museum said: "Friday is a unique day, for worship and socialising for Arabs and Muslims alike. Friday is synonymous [with] gathering, which is obviously seen from prayers at the mosque and eating together in the family house.

"Such habits strengthen family ties, spread peace and love and deepen the relationship of respect. They are commonly and regularly practised among Muslims and Arabs. The UAE society was, and still is, spiritually attached to its tradition.

"Friday is considered an official holiday and it reflects the total devotion to worship and family affairs. There is no room for business on Fridays, exactly like Sunday to Christians," May said.

Abdullah Al Shamsi, community relations director at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) said: "Friday is the 'Eid of the week', due to its importance and unique ceremony."

"Perhaps the best example is what Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said that, Friday is the greatest among days," Al Shamsi said.

Al Shamsi said that tourists and visitors to the UAE should find out the true meaning of Fridays from UAE tourism authorities.

Amal Al Falasi, 24, is the Emirati author of Small Tales, a book highlighting UAE traditions. Al Falasi said locals practised certain regular ceremonies of which the most important was the Friday prayer.

"Friday gatherings are used to bring the entire family together to share lunch, which has to be taken separately (men and women each in a different ...room) and exchange private and social news after a long week spent at work," he said. Mariam Khalifa Bint Nuwaier, 57, an Emirati housewife said that the Friday ceremony was an integral part of Emirati identity.

"We grew up on its regular habits. It's the only day in the week that allows the family to get together and practice social activities..." she said.

Nasser Al Mansuri, 24, Emirati, student at Dubai College and Photographer, said he looks forward to Fridays every week.

"I wait for Friday every week, Friday has unusual taste, it gives me the opportunity to see all my family members, and if anyone of them couldn't make it, right after the lunch I go and visit him/her and ask whether they need anything. I really like the idea of praying together with my family, friends and neighbours, and later I spend the joyful hours with my family whom I only gather with on Friday. Friday is priceless to me." he said.

Nasser Sultan, 35, Emirati employee at government sector said that Friday also reminds him of Eid ceremonies and Friday is very exceptional among the days.

"We used to get up early to have breakfast together, then we get ready for Friday's prayer at mosque, after that all family members gather at the house of the elderly person for lunch, and Friday's lunch is extremely nice because ladies prepare their irresistible dishes to proudly display them in the dining room.

"In the afternoon," he continues, "The season controls our plans; for instance, if its winter then we head to the desert and remain there until nightfall, but if its summer, then we head to the sea. Friday pleases the kids as well because all the week they are busy at schools and they don't get the chance to meet with and accompany their relative's friends."

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