PHOTOS

Dubai's Ramadan cannon: A boom that echoes through centuries

Hesham Salah and Juidin Bernarrd

Last updated on April 30, 2021 at 1.19 pm
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Every day — about two hours before the sun sets — a team of honour guards of the Dubai Police march towards a decades-old cannon in front of the Atlantis, the Palm. They clean up the cannon, get the blank shells ready, and secure the site.
As the clock strikes Iftar time, a familiar blast rings out — a boom that has echoed throughout centuries.“We strive to keep the tradition alive.
For generations, the cannon boom has been the signal that people would wait every day for to end their fast during Ramadan,” said Major Abdullah Tarish Al Amimi, commander of the artillery unit of the General Department of Protective Security and Emergency.
The Atlantis, the Palm, is one of six cannon locations in Dubai this holy month. The five others are at Al Salam Masjid in Al Barsha, Burj Khalifa, Al Mamzar Beach, Al Habbai Mosque in Al Khawaneej, and the praying ground in Al Mankhool.
Behind the daily cannon shots is a treasured tradition and a feeling of nostalgia that Muslims in different parts of the world hold dear.
Historians have traced its origin to Egypt, as far back as the 10th century, “when a Fatimid Caliph ordered that a cannon be placed on Cairo’s Muqatam Hill so all Muslims would hear the sound of the blast, signalling and letting them know that it was time to end their fasts”.
Since then several other countries have embraced the tradition. In Dubai, it began in 1960, Maj Al Amimi said.
“This cannon is a classic, manufactured in the UK,” he told Khaleej Times, behind the scenes of a cannon-firing moment at the Atlantis.
The Dubai Police have been using the same Ramadan cannons for decades now, he added. “Before and after Ramadan, we keep them cannons in our armoury, in an environment that keep them safe until the next holy month.”
Weighing 1.6 tonnes at a length of 4.6m, the cannon can be used with real ammunition but because its purpose is only to give a signal, it is loaded with blanks that only make a loud boom when fired, Maj Al Amimi explained.
Besides Ramadan, the cannons can be used during special events, too. The honour guards team takes charge of them, wearing the first uniform designed for the Dubai Police when it was established. They are usually seen at different occasions, especially those where the Commander-in-Chief of the Dubai Police is present.
Besides Ramadan, the cannons can be used during special events, too. The honour guards team takes charge of them, wearing the first uniform designed for the Dubai Police when it was established. They are usually seen at different occasions, especially those where the Commander-in-Chief of the Dubai Police is present.
Every day throughout the holy month, after a shot is fired, the guards end their fast together. Then, they go back to clean the cannon and cover it until the next day.
“We all know that we are doing something to keep a tradition for the young generations, so they may keep it as well for the future generations. It is a tradition that we love, and will always do,” Maj Al Amimi said.hesham@khaleejtimes.com
 
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