Life is finally back to 8 a.m. caffe lattes in the car on the drive to work after a 3 day long celebration of Eid Al Fitr.
Eid Al Fitr? What? Best way to describe it -- Christmas/ Easter combo for Muslims.
The difference? Apart from the fact that we are not celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, or Prophet Mohammad (PBUH); Eid Al Fitr is the rewarding celebration to conclude the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar -- a month of fasting.
The holy month of Ramadan is a time for practicing patience, prayers and charity. Muslims fast (no food, drink or smoking) from sunrise to sunset. The city is in siesta mode up until Iftar (breaking of fast at sunset prayers). It's not only the work hours and food/drink rules change across the country -- it is the whole lifestyle.
It is not just the Emirati population that adapt overnight to this alternative practice. The U.A.E.'s population is comprised of over 80% expatriates; with high numbers of non-Muslims such as British, Australian, European and South African nationals. Many expats take this time to indulge in the experience to gain an understanding of the Islamic practice and some use it as an annual detox program.
The past ten years have seen a significant emergence of Ramadan culture.
Hotel revenues switch from bars and nightclubs to 'khaymas' -- tents serving shisha, Arabic food and the strumming of arabic singers playing the oud as the only form of live music allowed in the city.
Nightlife transforms from shots at nightclubs to shots of morrocan tea and card games. Door policies switch from no national dress to no sleeveless tops and short dresses -- Ostentatious Conservatism is the months look for the khayma goers. Table reservations and minimum spend are still required -- somethings never change!
Capitalist marketing practices have seeped into this Islamic month of resilience. Ramadan kareem is the tagline plastered all over the city. It is a key month for retailers and shopping malls to capitalize on the month of giving. Everyone needs to make money right?
The style tone of the month results in a sharp increase in 'abaya' sales -- the 'abaya' is the elegant black robe worn by Arab women over their clothes, usually paired with a 'sheila' (head scarf). Women still need to be on top of their game at the ladies majlises (gatherings) for Iftar and Suhour (late night eating sessions).
It is the perfect opportunity for women to strut around at these gatherings in the seasons Jimmy Choo's coupled with the latest Balenciaga arm candy.
And for those Muslims and non-Muslims who are not lifestyle chameleons and have no desire to indulge in the religious months festivities -- there is a burgeoning underground party scene that creeps up every year. The network of non-conformers tap into a network of private house parties -- word spreads like wildfire every weekend and binge drinking begins as they feel conceptually suppressed by the months regulations. The abaya, no sleeveless top rule doesn't really apply in this sub-culture -- it is all about what you are not wearing that matters.