MENA: Welcoming Ramadan

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar has just begun. It is a time when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, try to get closer to God and celebrate their blessings.

Around the world, Muslims have been trying to capture the spirit of the month with photographs, sharing them on different social media websites.

Observing Crescent in Malaysia

Berita Harian (@bharianmy) shared a photograph of crescent observation in Malaysia

The Islamic calendar, is based on the moon and months are not based on astronomical calculations. This means that Ramadan can either be 29 or 30 days, and the beginning of each month is determined by observing the newly born crescent in the evening sky. Each Islamic state holds its own monthly observation of the new moon, and that's why Ramadan does not usually start the same day in all Muslim countries.

Ingrid Mattson (@IngridMattson) tweeted:

“Ramadan facts: different methods of determining the start of the lunar month mean that some Muslims begin fasting one day, others, the next”.

Sometimes even politics play part in determining the month's beginning.

While fasting in Ramadan Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and sex from dawn until sunset.

Fasting Hours across the Globe

A map published on Faculty of Science Fans Facebook page showing the different fasting hours across the globe. Facebook users commented with envy towards the Muslims in Argentina who are going to fast for 9 and a half hours only, and they were sympathetic with those in Denmark.

Ramadan Lanterns

Ramadan Lanterns shared by Omar Shoeb

The tradition of Ramadan Lanterns (Fanous Ramadan) is also vibrant in some parts of the world. It  started centuries ago in Egypt during the Fatimid era, when the Caliph Al-Muizz Lideenillah was greeted by people holding lanterns to celebrate his accession, which coincided with Ramadan. Lanterns have now become a symbol of Ramadan and are hanged in public squares, and across city streets, along with decorations and lights to add to the festivities of the month. In Egypt,  lanterns nowadays are either locally made or imported from China.

Nadia Kady shared a photograph of her new Fanoos, while Laila El Shafie tweeted:

“Its very hard to picture Ramadan without gramma buying me a lantern. May her soul rest in peace, Its my first Ramadan without her”.

Nada Rostom, on the other hand, shared her thought about the imported lanterns, their new shapes, compared to the traditional ones. She writes:

Fanoos sponge bob ! They totally ruined the original fanoos ! I love the ne7as one with candle (or bulb 3shan mat7ere2sh)

A Sponge Bob lantern! They totally ruined the original lantern! I love the copper ones with candles (or the ones with bulbs so that they don't burn)
Guns of Ramadan

Bahraini Patriot shared old photo of the cannon being fired in Lulu Roundabout in Bahrain

Another symbol of Ramadan in some parts of the Arab world is gun fire. In the past, guns were fired at dawn and when the sun set to tell people when to start and when to stop their fast. Now we have different calendars and even mobile applications that tell us the exact timings, yet the tradition is still alive, and the gun or cannon is seen a lot in Ramadan greeting cards along with lanterns and crescents.

Maged Saleh – who is apparently hungry now – tweeted wishing they fire the gun earlier by mistake.

Once the sun sets, guns or cannons are fired, people start eating and drinking, and since the meal comes right after fasting it makes a lot of sense for it to be called breakfast, or Iftar in Arabic. Relatives and friends are invited to each others homes and many try new and different recipes. Netizens share photos of different dishes:


Salma Hegab, from Egypt, shared photo of Qatayef being made. This kind of pastry is being baked in pastries, people then buy them, stuff them with creme or nuts, fry them, then coat them with syrup.

Mohamed Ahnin shared a photograph of his latest breakfast before Ramadan. Serkan Balbal shared picture of Turkish food. Rym Rymma posted photos from other Egyptian desserts. And also others from France and from Bosnia:

Halava from Bosnia

Emina Aganovic from Bosnia posted a photo of Halava, a kind of dessert

All these photos of food, while people are hungry, made Kae Kurd publish this warning to Instagram users.

After breakfast, many in the Arab world turn on the TV and Ramadan soap opera time begins. But in Syria, things are a bit different this year.

Bashar Soap Opera

Meshal Alnami posted this photo from Syria that says: “Follow us everyday in Ramadan, the Bringing Bashar Down series”

And in Bahrain, ZuzuBH tweeted [Ar] wondering about the relatives of Bahrain's martyrs, ‘what will be their feelings in Ramadan this year without their family members who are no longer here?’

Finally, Ramadan this year will coincide with the Summer Olympic Games in London, so blogger Turkish Mommy posted the following analogy between the two events. Her Ramadan 2012 flyer reads:

The event of the summer, uniting the world; No medals for the fastest rewards for those who fast one team; 2 + participants.

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