Ramadan through the eyes of an API director

API will welcome its first group of students to Doha, Qatar on September 10th! In honor of this new program, we’d like to highlight a post on the holy month of Ramadan, written by our Resident Director in Doha, Ghina Elkasti.

Every year, Muslims around the world welcome the holy month of Ramadan with the will to fast the whole month from dawn to sunset. It all starts at the sight of the new crescent moon of the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Compared to the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving backwards by about eleven days each year and giving the advantage that a person would fast everyday of the calendar in a 34 years’ time.

This year, Ramadan was in August, a month of the summer vacation. Although depriving people from travelling much to enjoy the summer, it had the advantage of not going to school, or having university exams during the fasting period. And for employees having a summer with less working hours is always a blessing! All working places and offices change their working hours to 5 hours instead of 7, giving the chance for people to get some rest during the afternoon before they break their fast at sunset and have their first meal which is called Iftar. Having Iftar at this time brings families closer together, since on usual days with the busy life style that we all have, most of the family members do not have lunch or dinner together. Inviting relatives and visiting them to have Iftar is very common as well.

A typical Iftar or breakfast meal would start with water, yogurt and dates to recover the sugar needed to get back the energy after almost 10 hours of fasting. This is typically followed by any kind of soup (usually it is Lentil soup), some salad and cheese rolls called “Sambusa” (seen in the picture to the left).

Next comes the main dish (rice, meat or chicken, pasta, etc) or any main course that is usually taken on non-fasting days. Making and having different kinds of Arabic desserts is also common. One of the famous Ramadan desserts is called Atayef; which can be described as a traditional Arabic pancake that can be stuffed with cheese, milk cream or nuts, and then topped with sugar syrup (seen in the picture to the right).

The Second meal other than iftar that people would have in Ramadan, is the Sohour, which is a lighter meal just before Dawn to be able to fast the next morning.

Ramadan is not only about refraining from eating and drinking, but it’s also a spiritual month where people who are fasting learn to be more patient, more thankful, and remember the poor and give charity more often during this month. Also during Ramadan Muslims perform additional prayers to are more thankful to God for all His blessings.

These prayers are called Taraweeh and occur approximately 2 hours after the Iftar and usually last for an hour where you will find many people – men and women – going to the mosque to perform these prayers. In the last 10 days of Ramadan, more prayers are performed after midnight for another hour or tw0, and this is to concentrate on the spiritual purpose of Ramadan and its importance as one of the pillars in Islam, and also to show the devotion to God and to withdraw oneself from the routine of the busy life. Muslims also remember that on Ramadan the first versus of Quraan were revealed to the Prophet Mohammad (believed to be on odd number nights of the last 10 nights of the Ramadan month).

Unlike usual days, when the nights begins to slow down after 9 or 10pm, in Ramadan the city and the regular life kickstarts again at the end of Taraweeh prayers. All shops and malls and other ventures that were closed since early afternoon till around 8pm, open and stay open till around midnight.

Ramadan is usually received with decorations in the streets and shopping malls. Lanterns and crescent shaped lights are known as symbols to Ramadan decorations.

*The pictures below were taken at shopping malls in Qatar and UAE during Ramadan 2011.


A traditional celebration happens during middle of Ramadan, but its only common among the gulf countries mostly where children dress in their traditional clothes and visit the neighbourhood with a small bag to collect nuts, candies, sweets and treats. You can compare it to Halloween (except for the “tricks” part and the scary costumes). Nowadays, during that day’s celebration is called “Karangao,” and it features activities for kids in many shopping malls and other gathering places.

When Ramadan is over, a celebration of 3 days called Eid el Fitr is held. Eid el Fitr begins with a special prayer where all men, women and even children perform the prayers in mosques.  People visit family members, relatives, and friends and wish each other Eid Mubarak, or a blessed Eid. Desserts are also part of this celebration, where muslims presents date pastries, baglawas and Arabic desserts when receiving people during Eid. Children dress in new clothes especially bought for Eid and receive money from their parents and relatives, called Eidiya.

If you are interested in learning more about API’s program in Doha, follow this link or call the API office at 1-800-844-4124.

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Sep 25, 2021 @ 15:47
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