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Ramadan through the eyes of a Pakistani expat

Laid-back in Pakistan, vibrant nightlife in Saudi, high tolerance and changing traditions in UAE

Image Credit: Supplied
Abdul Waheed Pal
Gulf News

Abdul Waheed Pal, 70, businessman and one of the senior-most members of Pakistani community

I have spent almost 45 years in the Middle East — 22 years in Saudi Arabia and the rest in the UAE. When I grew up in Pakistan, we had very different traditions during Ramadan. People used to sleep early after Taraweeh prayers and then they used to wake up early for suhour.

However, when I went to Saudi Arabia in 1973, life was entirely different during Ramadan. Our working hours were very different. During the day, people would work only for a couple of hours. The majority would start working very late in the evening. After Isha and Taraweeh prayers, we would go to work and continue till midnight and up to 2am sometimes.

People used to invite us for iftar and suhour also. We never used to sleep the whole night. People would be walking around and also praying.

After holding visas of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE and living in either country alternately for some years, I came here with my family in 2002. It was again totally different here. It was similar to Pakistan. People used to go to bed early then. But in the last 10-15 years, things have been changing here. When I came, roads used to be empty by 7pm. Only hospitals and pharmacies would be open. Now all shops and malls are open till midnight. After Taraheeh prayers, people go outside, meet and invite each other. Mixed family gatherings are common here, unlike in Saudi Arabia. Muslims invite non-Muslims also for iftar and suhour. Working hours here are also reduced during Ramadan. Nobody is forced to work overtime. The peaceful atmosphere and high level of tolerance are more evident during Ramadan.

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