Ask Ali: Why we don't 'celebrate' the Hijri New Year

In this week's Ask Ali we learn about why the UAE doesn't celebrate the Hijri New Year and where to go to get the falconry experience.

Dear Ali: I came to UAE for work and I have many friends here. I am familiar with local lifestyle, however, I am curious as to why you do not celebrate Hijri New Year like we do on the Gregorian calendar or even our Hindu New Year, and if you greet each other on this occasion, what do you usually say? PK, India

​Dear PK: Obviously we are happy to witness the beginning of each new year of the Hijri calendar, which is now in its 1,436th year. In fact, it is very significant to us as we associate it with our faith and culture. However, celebrating it as people do on December 31 of the Gregorian calendar or others, is not prominent among us simply because it is not a part of Arab culture in general and specially in the Muslim world. There are two major feasts that we celebrate generously – Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr. I believe you have had a chance to experience the festive mood during these big occasions while you were in the UAE or even visiting some Muslim friends back in your country.

In terms of the greetings, there are many salutations we use when we see each other at the start of the new Hijri year. We send beautiful cards through emails or nice wishes via mobile phones. What we say when we greet each other? We usually just say: “Happy New Hijri Year.”

The day is as important to us as its counterpart in the Gregorian calendar; we do consider Hijri to be a part of our life. For example, the month of Muharram means to us the beginning of the new year, the Holy Month of Ramadan ​ is one of the most important months of the year and so on. However, the Hijri calendar, unlike the Gregorian, can’t be used to plan or set your schedule for, let’s say, the next 10 years, because it keeps changing. A person who wants to ​ connect his or her daily schedule with the Hijri calendar can’t do it for a long time, because it would be hard to​ calculate each time when this day will be. So, the Hijri calendar is not that efficient for planning.

However, we love it and use it in our own ways and it is never too late to send a greeting card or message with “Happy Hijri Year!” to wish your Arab or Muslim friends all the best.

​Dear Ali: Where can I interact with a falcon as I really admire your falconry tradition and want to experience it myself? SO, Dubai

Dear SO: Falconry is a very popular tradition that is still practised by many Emiratis. But it doesn’t mean that you can spot falcons flying in the sky like pigeons. We have certain places that protect them and provide what the birds need for a healthy life.

We care so much about falcons that we even built the world’s biggest falcon hospital in Abu Dhabi, which you can visit. In Dubai, you can see a falcon in several places. A well-known one is Souk Madinat Jumeirah. There you can touch the bird, let it sit on your hand and take some pictures in the traditional-style setting of the Madinat.

For professionals, there is Dubai’s Falcon & Heritage Center in Nad Al Sheba, where you can learn the history of falconry in the region and also see the modern way of treating the bird. You will see some birds on show and learn secrets from experienced owners. This centre can satisfy all the needs of a falconer. It has multiple stores selling equipment, dietary supplements and books. You can even buy a falcon here as it is the only place in Dubai where it is allowed legally.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, for Dh50.

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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