Dubai: Age old tradition of firing cannons in Ramzan still alive

The usage of cannons reportedly dates back to the 10th century, wherein a cannon is fired first to mark the start of Ramzan, and the Iftar daily.

Dubai: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) today is undoubtedly one of the countries that use technology extensively, which is something that can be seen in its daily life there. However, a rather unique tradition in Dubai has been kept alive in spite of the huge leaps UAE has taken with regard to modern advancements: cannons. Yep, cannons are used extensively in the holy month of Ramzan, right from the sighting of the moon till the very end.

The usage of cannons reportedly dates back to the 10th century, wherein a cannon is fired first to mark the start of Ramzan, and the Iftar daily. As per the tradition, two shots are fired to mark the beginning of the holy month. During the month, one shot is fired daily to announce the Iftar. At the end of Ramzan, two shots are fired to mark it, and another two can be heard on Eid-ul-Fitr before the start of the prayer as well.

According to a report published in The National, Maj Abdullah Tarish of the General Department of Protective Security and Emergency said that the tradition began in Egypt in the 10th century. In Dubai, it started in the 1960s whereas, in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, it began in the 1930s and 1970s respectively. At that time, the people were living a very simple life and the sound of cannon firing was the signal to end their fast, he said.

It is also reported that Dubai has six cannons that are transported daily to Burj Khalifa, Atlantis The Palm, Al-Salam Mosque in Al Barsha, Al Mamzar Beach, Al Habbai Mosque in Al Khawaneej, and the prayer ground in Al Mankhool three hours before the Iftar. As the cannon weighs about two tones, it is taken at a speed of 70 kmph. They are around 80-year-old.

Each of the cannons is handled by four officers. Two of them march towards the cannon and load cartridge while others stand back as guardians of the cannons. As the sound of the cannons is 160 decibels, it has a range of 10 km. Due to deafening noise, people are asked to keep a distance of at least 30 meters from the cannons.

This year however, people are not allowed to be physically present at the cannon firing site due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they can watch it live on TV.

Cannon tradition in India

A similar tradition existed in India too. In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, a cannon is placed at the top of the ancient Raisen Fort. Until 2020, it was fired twice daily in the month of Ramzan to inform people about the start and end of the holy month. However, the 200-year-old tradition was stopped last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Before Muslim Tyohar Committee’s decision to discontinue the tradition amid pandemic, the sound of the shots used to resonate through 20 villages, it is said. The tradition was started by the Begum of Bhopal in the 18th century. At that time, the Nawabi army used to fire the cannon under the supervision of a Qazi. For the past three generations, the family of a local resident, Sakahwat Ullah was following the tradition and firing the cannon every year in the holy month.

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