By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent
The Holy Month of Ramadan is upon us, as Muslims from all over the world commence the month of fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. For many countries in the Middle East, this Ramadan will be one of the hottest on record with the fasting day lasting in upwards of fifteen hours. Yet despite the perceived hardship, the Muslim heart in Ramadan weathers all storms in the hopes of achieving salvation from Allah Almighty.
For this reason alone, wealthy Muslims who have been traveling abroad in Europe and North America make haste to reach their Muslim homelands well before the first day of fasting. Ramadan without friends and family is simply unthinkable for many Muslim denizens of the region. The power grid and city infrastructures in most Middle Eastern countries have already seen a notable spike in power usage and traffic jams signifying the rush back home. For this reason, countries like Kuwait and the UAE have pleaded with their residents to conserve water and electricity so as not to put a strain on governmental reserves, which could lead to shortages. Fears are rife in Kuwait especially that this Ramadan will not pass without at least a couple of power shortages, which have been the hallmarks of past Ramadans. The demand for electricity in the tiny Gulf State clearly outweighs the governmentâ€™s ability to produce enough power.
Other countries, like Egypt and Dubai, have been trying to lure their rich Gulf neighbors across the border to spend Ramadan with them in a blatant attempt to boost up their economies. Both countries have launched a tourism blitz trying to woo Muslims across the region to spend Ramadan away from home. In Egypt, for example, Muslim visitors are promised cooler temperatures, fireworks displays and elaborate programs featuring whirling dervishes. In the run up to Ramadan, the Egyptian government took a preemptive strike to close bars and clubs around the region for the duration of the Holy Month. Similarly, Dubai has locked the doors of dance clubs during Ramadan and reiterated to its public that alcohol served in bars and hotels is reserved exclusively for non-Muslims. Any Muslim partaking in alcoholic beverages within the Sheikhdom faces prison and other legal penalties.
The cloak of Ramadan shields Muslims in the Middle East from the rigors of the fasting day and brings an air of quiet comfort to anyone blessed enough to behold it. It also covers up some of the human vices that are all too often acceptable by many Islamic nations during the rest of the year, but conveniently shrouded for the most auspicious months.