DUBAI: For all of us observing the Holy Month, this year is going to be a very different experience. Normally synonymous with big family gatherings, extravagant iftars, and shopping sprees for Eid gifts, this Ramadan will be a more scaled-back, muted affair, with many having to break their fast solo.
Hopefully, though, it may also be an opportunity to find happiness in simple things, learn how to make the best of what we have, and to band together to support those who are struggling.
With the usual entertainments off the table, we take a look at new trends set to dominate Ramadan in the time of lockdown.
Since we’ve been quarantined, we’ve found joy in the little things, like catching up with a loved one via Zoom, for instance. And it looks like this could work well in place of the big Ramadan gatherings we’re so used to.
Sherrie Higgins, founder of the party planning site, How to Hen, says she’s finding herself hosting more live virtual gatherings and that this trend will continue across the board.
“The events industry will concentrate more on virtual gatherings held on conference apps like Zoom,” she explains. “Individuals will want to tune into ‘live events’ and purchase items — such as identical decorations across multiple households — that make it easier for them to celebrate ‘together’ without actually being together.”
For many in the hospitality industry, this month is a real opportunity to come up with something unique and interesting.
“F&B concepts, especially, have an opportunity to step up and capitalize on this period, but only if they choose to think outside of the box,” says Aby Sam Thomas, editor in chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. “I’d be keen on seeing brands in this space facilitating online iftar gatherings. These could take the form of food deliveries being made to each member of the group — or, for the more culinary inclined, curated recipes with ingredients.”
Daniel Evans, business development manager (MENA) at another hospitality brand, Music Concierge, agrees: “My Ramadan trend prediction is a move towards forging connections with our usual guests through virtual means, particularly during iftar,” he says. “With Ramadan, there is an opportunity for hotels and restaurants to genuinely connect via home delivery. This could take the form of QR codes providing links to appropriate entertainment, ‘build-your-own’ Ramadan decorations packs bundled with food deliveries, or simply handwritten notes to let guests know we’re thinking of them in a challenging period.”
WE’LL LOOK BETTER
The elimination of big buffets will no doubt have a positive effect on our waistlines, but having a lockdown during Ramadan will also provide other health benefits. In regular years, many of us are guilty of trying to fit in too many things during the Holy Month — events, outings, iftars, suhours, and more. So by the time Eid Al Fitr arrives, we’re too tired to enjoy the holiday. And it shows.
Maria Madadha of French cosmetics brand Filorga, says the lockdown has changed the way many women look after their skin for the better.
“Now that women have more time at home, DIY facials and skin treatments are becoming very popular,” she says. “Ramadan is a great opportunity to (continue this trend) because fasting itself has a detox effect on the whole body.”
Maria Dowling, founder and creative director of Mariadowling Salon, says the same will apply to haircare.
“Hair is having a rest,” she tells Arab News. “With less blow-drying and more at-home treatments we will be working on nourishing rather than beautifying. We will see more hair which is naturally shiny and in great condition, thanks to the time we have to spend on showing it some love.”
ARAB CELEBS GET RELATABLE
TV viewership tends to soar during Ramadan, and while this trend will no doubt continue this year, we’re also going to be seeing a slight change in programming. Gone are the live studio entertainment and talk shows, instead we’ll be seeing Arab celebrities coming to us live from their living rooms.
For example, MBC1 has put together a brand-new show, called “Sahraneen Ma3akom Bel Bait” (“Staying up with you at home”), featuring content from around the region, instead of guests being in-studio. Hosted by Cyrine Abdel Nour and Ahmad Fahmi, the show will include “interviews with some of the Arab world’s biggest stars via video call from their homes,” explains Mazen Hayek, group spokesperson of MBC Group. “We know that people are going to stay home, and therefore it is important to create something that shows them they are not alone. This unexpected new trend of interviewing celebrities from their home makes them more accessible to viewers.
“We’ve also got a campaign happening in partnership with Twitter to encourage people to connect and get talking at this time,” Hayek continues. “It’s important no one in the community feels alone and that we kind of stay together even if we have to stay apart.”
Social-media content will continue to play a huge role too. The breakout star of the lockdown? Tik Tok, says Wael Attili, co-founder and VP of content at Kharabeesh.
“Celebrities and faces we never imagined seeing on such platforms are joining the trend,” he says. “I’m not sure if this was a chance Tik Tok took advantage of due to the pause in the production industry, or if it just happened virally. But Tik Tok formats — such as challenges, short-form (stories), comedy, and gamification — have been working well for people during the curfew.”
Given the nature of the current situation, Attili adds, comedy will likely be more in demand this year.
If there’s one thing this pandemic has shown, it’s our communities’ determination to help each other in times of need. In order to keep small, homegrown businesses going, more consumers are “shopping local.”
“In keeping with the spirit of Ramadan, the trend will be to buy online from small local businesses,” says Shaan Qasim, founder of GCC online marketplace, Saffron Souk. “The focus will be to buy local in order to support a self-sustaining economy.”
But that’s not just reserved to lifestyle products; the hospitality industry is also hoping to see support from its communities.
“Ramadan is generally a very tough month for many independent restaurants, and COVID-19 just guaranteed it being tougher this year than ever before,” says Samer Hamadeh, founder of the UAE’s Aegis Hospitality. If there’s an opportunity to support local, then consumers should do so.
Music-streaming platform, Anghami recently released insights into how the region has been consuming music and other content during quarantine, and one stand out was religious content.
“We didn’t quite expect it, but it makes sense that we saw more people searching for religious content and prayers,” says co-founder Elie Habib. This trend will no doubt continue during Ramadan.