(photo credit: AP [file])
The global economic crisis is taking its toll on the tent-rental business in the Gulf.
With Ramadan around the corner (it begins on August 22, give or take a day), many companies in the Gulf region are scaling back on expenses by not sponsoring or renting tents for the Iftar meal.
The Iftar meal is held each evening after the Ramadan fast, which is observed during the daylight hours. It has become a custom among companies in the Gulf region to sponsor tents or rent them to host an Iftar meal.
"They are definitely down this year", Azer Subzari, sales representative with Al-Humtaz Rentals in the United Arab Emirates, told The Media Line.
While the Iftar traditionally is a meal held at ones home with close family, over the last few years the tradition has grown into an elaborate social gathering held all night in huge tents.
"Of course the business is less than last year," said Krishna Das, of UAE tent-rental company Dulsco.
Many companies in Muslim countries also engage in socially responsibility activities during Ramadan, such as caring for the poor. Activities range from handing out food parcels to hosting Iftar meals and donating material to schools.
Due to the multicultural composition of work forces in many Gulf companies there is a growing trend of companies offering Ramadan awareness programs for their employees. The program usually includes lectures on some of the fundamental features of the holiday, why one fasts, how to fast and the "dos and don'ts" of living in a Muslim country. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. Healthy adult Muslims are obligated throughout Ramadan to fast every day from dawn to dusk, refraining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations.
Though traditionally a time of introspection, many Muslims are inclined to make up for their daily deprivation during the night, gathering for festive social get-togethers and feasting until the dawn heralds a new fast day.
The start of the fast is based on moon sightings, so the calendar cannot be determined in advance. The starting date also varies from country to country depending on moon sighting.
Trade and industry generally come to a standstill during Ramadan, especially when it falls during the hot months of the year.