Dubai: Deira, or old Dubai, is a reflection of serenity and sanctity all through Ramadan.
During the day it is business as usual in the busy areas of Deira, such as Gold Souq, the spice market, Al Riqqa and in the areas around Deira City Centre. By 4pm, activities begin in preparation of iftar. Good Samaritans prepare large quantities of biryani for it to be served among the workers in and around the area. A wide variety of Ramadan drinks, fruit and dates are spread out inside mosques for people to break their fast. Volunteers offer their services to serve food and drinks to people in the mosques.
Packets of biryani and dates
In the Deira Gold Souq area, cafeterias lay out tables right on the streets for passersby to pick up their iftar treats on the go. A pack of fruit and dates cost Dh5, while fritters and snacks sell from Dh1 upwards. By 6pm, the tables are empty and the snacks are all sold out. By 6.30pm, people make their way to the mosques with their prayer mats. Some mosques in this area distribute packets of chicken biryani and dates to worshippers. Abra riders also find space on the boats to end their fast and have iftar with fruit and Ramadan drinks.
At the call of ‘namaz’, there is a renewed sense of energy in the streets of Deira as more people make their way to the nearest mosques. The streets begin to get busy and as the sun sets, the lights are up and Deira suddenly bears a festive look.
Respecting the Ramadan spirit
The touristic nature of Deira comes to life at the Gold Souq and spice markets. Tourists enjoy the glitter of gold souq and lingering aroma at the spice market. It is heartening to see visitors respecting the Ramadan spirit. Many can be seen gathering around the roadside cafeterias at the call of prayer, so that they can have an early dinner.
Around 7.30pm, there’s a sudden rush at these cafeterias as people come to grab an early Suhoor.
Inside the small retail stores, the shutters are down half way as the staff sit down and have iftar together. Indian expatriates Abdul Raouf, Aslam Antule and Nazir Ahmed share an iftar together inside their shop. They sit down on the floor and spread their iftar out. Antule said he picked up a parcel of chicken biryani from the mosque nearby. “Every day, hundreds of meals are packed and distributed for those fasting in this area. I picked up one packet as I wanted to share it with my colleagues. I could have picked up parcels for them too, but there was a queue behind me. I did not want to deny them a chance. Sharing is caring and we believe and practise that strongly during Ramadan,” Antule said.
The parcel Antule had picked up also contained fruit, dates and Ramadan drinks. “We feel connected with our community, more so during Ramadan for we help each other out,” he added.
Picking up traditional spices
Inside the spice market, there are Ramadan offers. An Egyptian expatriate shopping in the market said he was preparing for Eid. “I am taking advantage of the sale. Eid is a big celebration in our family. We invite friends and extended family members to our homes. I am here to pick up some traditional spices to prepare authentic dishes at home,” the Egyptian said.
A Bangladeshi family was also getting ready for Eid. “I am here to buy some gold for my wife and daughter. Gold Souq is the best place for that. The only problem is that I am spoilt for choice, given such a huge variety of designs.”
At the call of ‘namaz’, near the ‘abra’ stations, drivers and boat riders sit inside to pray and break their fast. This old part of Dubai looks spectacular as the sun sets. It’s a blissful moment, just listening to the prayer and watching people pray.
Rush hour at Al Riqqa
Al Riqqa, meanwhile, comes alive post-iftar. The restaurants are busy with customers and the evening gets even more busy as streams of people head homewards from work. Filipino expatriate Ryan Rosario said every day, it feels like a festival at Al Riqqa — all through Ramadan. “I cannot wait for Eid as the streets get more festive than ever.”
If you are looking to experience Ramadan nights in the older parts of Dubai, then you definitely need to head to Deira, a sight to behold.