The arrival of Ramadan Kareem has showered everyone with infinite blessings as the doors of heaven have flung open. This holy month guides us towards self-restraint and a healthy lifestyle while cleansing our minds and hearts of poor and unfavourable desires. Above all, we experience a sudden flow of happy hormones, ebbing away from distress and pessimism.
This fasting month of Ramadan holds special significance in the UAE, manifested by countless traditions honouring the spiritual and religious season. One of the prime traditions is the firing of cannons at sunset, also known as Midfa Al Iftar. These Ramadan cannons can be heard all day across various cities. Let’s delve in to learn more about this outstanding tradition:
What Is The Ramadan Cannons’ Firing Tradition?
Firing Ramadan cannons is a tradition that is organised in many Muslim countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Palestine. Famously they are held in the mountainous areas of Makkah.
In the UAE, the booming sound of Ramadan cannons’ fire resonates at sunset. It informs residents when to break the fast and start their iftar meal. In Dubai, the police force usually operates the Ramadan cannons in black cartridges at the city’s popular tourist sites so that visitors can gather to witness the spectacle.
The sound of the Ramadan cannons can be heard as far as 10 kilometres. According to the Dubai police protocol, four officers are present at each firing site. Two men operate the cannon. One of them passes a blank cartridge while the other loads it. The remaining two officers stand at the back as guardians and give the order. When it is time for iftar, an officer gives the order, and the men fire the cannon.
Moreover, the officers fire cannons twice consecutively to announce Ramadan, once each day to announce iftar, twice successively to announce Eid Al Fitr and Eid morning after Eid prayers.
The Historical Significance of Ramadan Cannons
This tradition of firing Ramadan cannons has its origins in 19th century Egypt. According to some accounts, its roots trace back to the 15th century in the era of the Mamluks.
There are different versions of the story that gave rise to the cannon tradition. One circulates around the Mamluk sultan, Khaskada, in Cairo, who desired to test-fire one of his new cannons, and the experiment proceeded with the Maghrib prayers. However, residents believed that the sultan had fired the cannon to notify them about the time to break their fast. When the sultan realised how content the worshippers were with his new “innovation”, he decided to do it daily.
A second account involves the ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, of the 19th century. He fired a German-made cannon at Maghrib time, and people perceived it as a sign to break their fast. On the other hand, the third story takes place in late 19th century Egypt during the rule of Khedive Ismail. The story has a similar plot.
Soldiers fired the cannon to test it at Maghrib prayer. When Khedive’s daughter, Hajjah Fatimah, heard about this, she issued a decree declaring the usage of cannons at Maghrib and during official events on Eid days mandatory. Due to this fact, some people call firing Ramadan cannons “Al Hajjah Fatimah’s cannons”.
Now, blasting Ramadan cannons during Maghrib’s call has become one of the famous global Ramadan traditions adopted by Muslim countries across the world.
The Significance of Ramadan Cannons in the UAE
According to the presenter at Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, Ahmad Al Jafflah, the tradition of blasting cannon has roots in Sharjah in the 1930s. Dubai adopted this custom in the 1960s, whereas Abu Dhabi introduced it in the 1970s.
The impressive Ramadan cannons in Dubai were constructed in 1945 in Britain and the authorities have used them to announce prayers and iftar ever since.
Where Can You See Live Ramadan Cannons?
While local TV stations broadcast the firing of the Ramadan Cannons every evening, watching it live is an incredible experience. The sound echoes throughout the Emirate from locations such as Burj Khalifa and Eid prayer grounds in Al Mankhool and Al Baraha. In addition, you will find tourists gathering at Madinat Jumeirah’s Fort Island, where the concerned authorities arrange one of the city’s most iconic iftar cannon firing ceremonies.
Closely monitored by Dubai police, the Ramadan cannons will operate from 11 different positions in 2022. There are five fixed positions this year, identified as follows:
- Atlantis The Palm
- Burj Khalifa
- Al Seef
- Al Waheda at Century Mall Dubai
- Hatta, in front of Emirates Cooperative Society and Hatta Hill Park
Dubai police dispatched mobile Ramadan Cannons at the following sites for three days:
- Al Aweer near Sheik Hamdan Mosque
- Lahbab near Lahbab Community Park 1
- Al Khawaneej near Ahmed Al Habbai Mosque
- Al Lisaili near Al Nahda National School
- Muhaisnah near Abdul Rahim Mohammed Kti Mosque
- Al Quoz near Al Anbiyaa Mosque
- Al Satwa near the Big Mosque
- Next, the following areas will host the iftar cannons for two days:
- Al Warqa near the Big Mosque
- Jebel Ali near Ibn Battuta Mall and Ain Dubai
- Nad Al Sheba near Nad Al Sheba Park
- Al Barsha near Al-Buhaira Park
Other than Dubai, police place cannons in Sharjah at nine different areas, including Al Majaz Waterfront, every year. Likewise, the residents will hear the sound of blasting cannons in the UAE capital, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah.
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