Technological Transformation of Ramadan in the UAE

The best time of the year is here; Ramadan 2021. Ramadan is the month of spirituality, self-reflection, and spending cherished moments with loved ones. With the advancement of new technology the basic building blocks of Ramadan remain untouched, however, some of the Ramadan traditions have changed, over time. 

In the ever-evolving, globalizing world, and with the advancement of technology, Ramadan has evolved, so has our lives. With over 200 nationalities peacefully living together in a small country spread across 71,023.6 sq km, UAE is the pioneer of tolerance. Each resident has the freedom to practice their religion. However, during Ramadan, both Muslims and non-Muslims, take part and enjoy Ramadan traditions. Let’s shine a light on how Ramadan in UAE has evolved over the years.

Reminiscing Ramadan in the past

Decades ago, Ramadan was the month, where the echo of the sounds of drumbeats filled the streets across Abu Dhabi and other villages. A “Butbayla”, literally meaning a man with a drum, would shout across the streets to announce the onset of Suhoor, which would wake people up, marking the beginning of the preparations for the pre-dawn meal. 

People would visit each other’s houses more often and learn about different styles and tasks to perform during Ramadan. Women would exchange recipes for food as well as wooden perfumed chips, and dive into learning special designs for clothes and embroidery. There was always a personal connection where people would meet and talk about their family, lives and participate in great conversations.

Iftar was traditionally a custom to bring friends and families together and enjoy time together without worrying about work or other everyday tasks. The meals were simple and humble, even when guests were invited. It was more about the connection with people, rather than the size of the meals.  

Ramadan 2.1: Ramadan in the 21st Century 

Now, we have smartphone apps that calculate the timings of sunrise and sunset to the second and notify you of times to start and break the fast. And some extravagant traditions where, jets fly believers, who can afford to, to different timezones as per the fasting schedule. Let’s take a look at how Ramadan has evolved with the times and has opened doors that were unthought-of in the past.

Getting the world in one plate

With hundreds of nationalities living in the UAE, the variety of food spread during Iftar is equivalent to a king’s feast. You could have eight to fifteen countries on just one plate, in one sitting. From Asian, to European to African and American every cuisine becomes a part of Iftar. UAE also organizes special Ramadan tents for people to have a lavish Iftar and Suhoor buffet catering to professionals as well as family and friends. The quality and quantity of dishes are remarkable and countless. 

Ramadan Marathons

Ramadan marathons are a thing now. No, not the running marathon! The TV Serial marathon! Satellite TV, OTT, and digital platforms have opened new doors unlike ever before. There are hundreds if not more TV shows, podcasts, serials, and web series about Ramadan. From Billboard ads to online ads, the Ramadan TV Season is all over UAE. It is what everyone looks forward to, no matter which country you are based in. The entertainment industry leaves no stone unturned to keep all their fellow fasting buddies entertained thoroughly, throughout the fast. 

Gift shopping via clicks

The people fasting during Ramadan spend a lot of their time shopping online. As per Criteo, 64% of consumers in the UAE increased online shopping during Ramadan for beauty and groceries, and 72% of consumers like to do their Ramadan and Eid gift shopping online. Online food and ready-made meal ordering have also taken over UAE by the storm and continue to increase each year during Ramadan. 

Increase in mobile phone magnets 

According to research, 44% of people in UAE spend more time on their mobile phones during Ramdan, to order food and groceries instead of going in-store. The shopping aspect of Ramdan within the UAE has also changed especially more so now because of Covid-19. 

Contactless Charity 

Ramadan is a period of giving and ‘Zakat’ is one of the key elements of Ramadan. 40% of UAE residents plan to spend more on charity and donate more in 2021. Websites in UAE have been launched to donate food online, where donors have to log onto the website and select how many meals and the cost of the meals. At the end of Ramadan, donors will be provided with reports on the distribution of the meals donated by them. Everything can be done on a smartphone! Who would have thought that numerous people can be helped, in hours, via a small electric gadget that can fit into the palm of our hands? 

Ramadan post Covid-19 

Covid-19 has changed the world in just a year. There is a new normal that has pushed its way into existence. However, the spirits of people have not deterred thanks to modern-day technology.

In Ramadan 2020, speakers from different corners of the globe were brought together for a lecture on hope and positivity via Zoom, according to Al Manar Centre in Dubai, the first weekend of Ramadan reached 60,000 viewers last year. Technology kept the hope alive, for those interested in Ramadan classes were given the opportunity with online classes in English and Arabic languages.

Certain accounts on Instagram Live, livened up with ambient music, playing soothing calm music inspired by the Indonesian Jazz festival, during the entire course of Ramadan last year. The Cambridge Muslim College in the UK put together a live-stream package airing every day from teachers and scholars based in the US, Australia, and the UAE, to talk about multiple topics, in a lively chat involving thousands of people watching from across the world. 

The Ramadan Tent project in the UK, organized virtual Iftars on Zoom and Facebook live to provide a platform for people to feel united and achieve a sense of belonging, during the lockdown. The events were always free, they broadcasted a live call to prayer, hosted lectures as well as allowed different households to share their Iftar experiences virtually with each other. Even with social distancing in place, and lockdowns all over the world, people are still able to connect and feel the Ramadan spirit through technology and keep hopes alive. 

Technology Impact on our lives

We don’t realize the magnitude of impact that technology has on us. Technology advances, by the day, if not by the hour.  Even pious festivals like Ramadan, cannot escape technological colonization. As humans, we want to progress and advance in everything that we involve ourselves in. Keeping this in mind, Bayzat was also created for the sole purpose, to use technology to simplify work for every employee. With the advancements of digitization, we use technology and artificial intelligence to automate repetitive administrative tasks. We want to create a better work life experience for employees and change the dynamics of ‘how work is supposed to be done.’