French cannon fired in two world wars to mark the start of Ramadan in Dubai

The artillery piece was built in 1894 and out of service for more than 50 years

The historic French cannon on display at Expo City Dubai on Monday. Ruel Pableo / The National
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A French cannon built in 1894 and used in two world wars will be fired to mark the start of Ramadan in Dubai.

The historic artillery piece will be fired at 15 sites across the emirate during the holy month.

It had pride of place at the Dubai Police Museum but is back in service for the first time in more than half a century to join the force's collection of Ramadan cannons.

It will be part of the chorus of cannon fire across Dubai to usher in the start of Ramadan, which will fall on Wednesday or Thursday.

The cannons, known as midfa al iftar, are typically fired at sunset to signal the end of the day's fasting.

Ramadan tradition

Their familiar booming sounds, which have become part of Ramadan tradition in Dubai since the 1960s, will also be heard in front of the Burj Khalifa, at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai Festival City, Damac Hills, Uptown Mirdiff and Hatta Guest House in the weeks to come.

Maj Abdullah Tarish Al Amimi, commander of the artillery unit at Dubai Police, said the French cannon has not been used since the 1970s.

It is one of two French-built cannons in the force's ranks, but the only one to see action in 2023.

“The French cannon was made in 1894 and was in service in 1901. The cannon participated in the First and Second World Wars. Today the cannon will be used in Ramadan,” said Maj Al Amimi.

“The cannon was placed in front of Dubai Police’s museum. Due to the increasing demands on the iftar cannons, the force made a full makeover to the cannon and is back for duty this year."

Dubai Police also has a British-built cannon at its disposal which can reach 170 decibels, louder than the sound of a military jet during a take off which is typically 130 decibels.

It will be positioned at Expo City Dubai throughout Ramadan.

Cannon protocols

Four officers should be present at each firing. Two officers man the cannon, one passes a blank cartridge and the other loads it.

Two officers will serve as guardians of the cannon and give orders.

When it is time for iftar, the order is given and the cannon is fired. The shots can be heard from several kilometres away.

Maj Gen Abdullah Al Gaithi, director of the force's General Department of Organisation Protective Security and Emergency, said the iftar cannons have become an important part of Ramadan celebrations.

“The cannon is first fired to mark the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, and then each day a cannon announces the breaking of the fast at maghrib sunset prayers,” Maj Gen Al Gaithi said.

“The Expo site attracted millions of visitors [during the world's fair] and the cannon will be another attraction. We are trying to reach every single house in the emirate by distributing the cannons to different spots.”

Expo City Dubai will stage a wide variety of activities during the holy month.

Workshops, games and theatre shows will be laid to celebrate the values of Ramadan.

Worshippers will also be able to offer prayers at a dedicated mosque at the sprawling site.

Updated: March 22, 2023, 4:32 AM