Great Comment by Anonymous: Please read
It is by an anonymous commenting on a old blog I did on our failure to brand our culture. Copy/pasted as is and without any edits:
I am a western catholic (not much into it though) expat in Dubai so I'm going to give you the non-muslim POV.
I spent the last week wondering. I remember spending Eid in morocco a few years back and it was something else, the spirit was vibrant and you could tell by the way the city atmosphere changed that something big was going on.
Countless neighbors invited me and my friends for teas, meals, even for the sacrifice. We had a wonderful time there, we met countless of people, learned a lot about religion and the kindness of people. And how to kill a sheep.
In Dubai, I heard about it in gulfnews, noticed that most Emiratis where still hanging out at coffee beans and MOE and the mosque weren't much louder than usual.(not that they should, but everything felt like a plain old saturday). Decoration none, aside from the Christmas displays of course.
Oh and funny things, the only e-mail/postcard/oral greetings I received was from a non-muslim German guy trying to "fit into the culture" and wishing happy Eid to his whole address book and from the filipina waitress at the aforementioned coffee beans.
Every time I tried to wish an Happy Eid, in English or in my clumsy Arabic I was received with a blank stare and a little laugher that left me wondering if I totally missed the pronunciation or was off with the date. So I stopped.
As far as a Ramadan is concerned for non-muslim it's just a boring period where you avoid being outside or in public as much as you can. Eat junk food hidden in the crampiest room that was dedicated "for non-muslim" by your company Unless you can afford to eat at one of the "hidden" restaurant of the 5 stars hotel. The upside is the short work day.
As for spirit, It's difficult to feel anything, maybe it's lost between Nakheel and Jumeirah's PR stunt about the biggest tower or the biggest residential units or new villa or the toll gate or the new bridge. I don't know.
I was invited for Iftar/Suhoor by countless of Hotels and Companies myself or my wifes works with but not a single time by an individual.Of course I could have been if I went begging for it at the "Mutual comprehension" (or something) booth that I saw once in a mall, but I really didn't feel like having to ask for it.
People (old timers) told me to prepare some small gifts and candies to give children that would come knocking at the door. A tradition or so I've been told. I didn't see anyone and ate those myself. It was kinda sad.
I had very different experience in Egypt were every other day my coworkers took me for shopping spree of gift basket (dates, oil, sugar, chocolate, ...) that we distributed in the company to the less fortunate than us. (office boys, cleaners, etc..) so they could enjoy a nice Ramadan Iftar without denting their finances. Invitation for Iftar were also flying all over the place, and not a day could pass without having to apologize five or six time because of a prior engagement. And yes, even white catholic expats were organizing Iftar dinners for their friends. Even the huge coptic community there seemed to be enjoying the event and taking part in it.
I was in Kuwait last week and it was mostly identical to Dubai. Big fat Christmas trees everywhere and no sign of Eid or any other Muslim religious holy day coming. And people say Kuwait is supposed to be more conservative. *shrug*
So as kj said it would be great if muslims in Dxb would take their expats co-worker and acquaintance by the hand a let them discover the inner working of a family Iftar dinner or Eid Al Adha lunch.As for the PR and lobby it is badly needed. Maybe internally I don't know but externally that's for sure. Try to put yourself in the shoe I shared with most European (and american are worse off). for a month do not watch any news channel originating from an Arab country. Stick to the BBC, CNN, (and not the "orient" version which has stuff as business middle east and Doha debates). Get the original ones which mostly ignore those countries unless something blows up.
And then just for fun, write down the topic of the news item every time middle east or muslim are mentionned. I can tell you it doesn't look good.
Nowhere to be heard of is Dubai care, the kuwait fund, the red crescent, any other muslim ONG that actually helps people instead of distributing explosive belt. Never is heard the voice of any intellectual or even educated Muslim. Only people grunting in the street, a riffle in one hand, a burning flag, of whichever bad western country of the week, in the other.
Dubai's (was it UAE?) first election last year. Do you think anyone in europe has heard about it? Answers no but here we get news about the French president new love conquest in local papers.
So yes PR, PR, PR. The other, good, face badly needs to be shown. And maybe one day my relatives back home will stop asking me if I am "really sure it's safe to stay in Dubai."
Take care and enjoy the festive season.