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Wednesday, Sep 03 , 2014 ( Thul-Qedah, 1435)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

Ramadan Iftar Defies Economic Crunch

By OnIslam & News Agencies ,
15538
The economic crisis has never discouraged Muslim families from throwing iftar for relatives and friends during the holy fasting month. (Google)
The economic crisis has never discouraged Muslim families from throwing iftar for relatives and friends during the holy fasting month.
DUBAI — While the global economic crisis has forced many to change their lifestyles, it was never an excuse for Muslim families to shun their habit of throwing iftar banquets in the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

"This is the only month when families get together for banquets,” Emirati housewife Umm Saeed told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Dubai on Sunday, August 30.

“They do not care about the crisis; people forget about their worries during those get-togethers."

Across the Middle East, Muslim families are busy preparing iftar banquets for relatives and friends during the fasting month.

In the oil-rich Gulf region, supermarkets are crammed with customers, shopping for food and drinks in preparation for the iftar, sometimes served in lavish tents or hotel ballrooms.

"Food is food no matter if there is an economic crisis; people are buying and cooking the same quantities as last year,” said Mashael Mekki, a Sudanese living in Dubai.

A financial firestorm swept the US in September after the collapse and financial woes of a number of Wall Street giants. The crisis has since knocked down markets worldwide.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.

Muslims are also drawing closer to one another during the holy month by coming together each evening to pray and break their fasts.

“It's Ramadan; people are hungry,” said Mekki.

"I am buying the same things as I did last year. The same people who have invited us last year are also inviting us this year."

Special Month

Mohammed al-Sada, a 32-year-old government clerk in Qatar, says cutting back on spending is "unthinkable" because Ramadan has a "special status."

"There is merchandise that should be bought during Ramadan as is the case every year even if I have to depend on the credit card,” he said.

“Perhaps I will economise after the month is over in order to compensate for the budget deficit, but we are not ready to change our habits during Ramadan."

Elsewhere across the Middle East from Egypt, Syria and Lebanon to Jordan, Ramadan activities are in full swing.

Customers throng cafes and restaurants, staying up late, drinking tea or eating sweets and delicacies while chatting and exchanging news.

The race to throw iftar banquets during Ramadan has led prices of many commodities to go up.

"I have noticed an increase in the prices of staple foods, the foods we use in our everyday meals, such as rice, vegetables, bread and meats,” said Umm Khalifa in Dubai.

“They are raising the prices on things that we need the most.

"I think the rise in prices is unjustified since they know that during Ramadan we consume more so this way they are creating more pressure on households."

The rising prices have prompted governments to take measures to clamp down on the hikes.

For example, the UAE ministry of economy said it was monitoring the fruits and vegetables market in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan to ensure price stability.

Ministry representatives have fined some shops for failure to stick to designated prices or for a lack of price tags on merchandise.

In Egypt, on the other hand, the economic crisis seems to have forced a cut in the price of a staple of the Ramadan diet, the date.

Tradition dictates that fruit-sellers nickname their dates to reflect unofficial popularity ratings, and US President Barack Obama is near the top of the list this year.

The "Obama" date had been expected to fetch 25 Egyptian pounds (around 4.50 dollars) a kilogram (2.2 pounds).

"People can't afford dates this year,” said Mohammed, a fruit vendor in the bustling Cairo's Sayyeda Zeinab neighbourhood. “We had to bring the price down to 15 pounds."

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