Cannons Fire Up During Ramadan

Five minutes before Iftaar, with the food spread out in front of us, and after making our respective duas, Masood turns on the T.V. We love watching the cannons being fired right before the call of prayers. It’s nice to see how people gather around the cannon (at a safe distance, of course) and wave their hands at the camera.

The firing of the cannon is an important Ramadan tradition here in the U.A.E. It is believed to date from the early days of Islam, when the Fatimid caliph instructed that a cannon be placed at the highest point of a city so that during Ramadan, all Muslims would be able to hear the shot, signaling the end of the fast at sunset.

In the U.A.E. however, the tradition started in Sharjah in 1803, during the rule of Sultan Bin Saqr. Dubai followed this tradition in 1912, during the rule of Shaikh Saeed Al Maktoum.

The Imams are instructed by the Ruler not to call for Iftar until they heard the firing of the cannon. The timing was determined by the Ruler upon recommendation from a group of religious scholars.

By 1960, firing of the cannon became the responsibility of the Dubai police, and has remained under their supervision ever since.

Historically, military cannons were used; this has now been replaced by sonic cannons.

Today, there is no practical reason for the firing of the cannon, but it still exists in an effort to preserve the tradition. The Ramadan cannon has become symbolic and is an integral part of the U.A.E. tradition.

The cannon firing team consists of one sergeant, one traffic officer, and three soldiers. They arrive about an hour before sunset. A soldier loads a blank charge into the cannon and sets the safety switch to prevent any mishaps. The men communicate over the walkie-talkie as the sun dips lower in the sky.

A few minutes before the cannon is fired, a huge crowd gathers around the cannon to witness the firing, before going to the mosque to break their fasts and pray. They wave to the cameras and call their friends and family at home to watch them live on T.V. The Sharjah government also provide Iftaar meals to people who come to witness the cannon fire.

Photo and facts courtesy of the Gulf News.


  1. WOW!!! What a detailed explanation about the tradition of the UAE. I am enjoying the cannon fire at the time of iftar but wasn’t aware of it’s history…..Amazing!

    ~ Now that we know it’s history and origins, we’ll enjoy it more 🙂

    Perhaps we can go see the cannon ourselves sometime soon, InshaAllah. It’ll be a great experience.

  2. This is a great post! We get to hear them sometimes in Islamabad too (from Imam Baree… this shrine in Islamabad). It makes the whole fasting experience so exciting, doesn’t it? 🙂

    I’m just wondering where you got this information from! It musta taken TIME!!

    ~ Thanks, Misspecs! I didn’t know we have it back home in Pakistan, because I don’t think Karachi has this tradition. Yes, it does make the fasting experience very exciting. We look forward to the cannon firing every Iftaar time 🙂

    I just got curious today about this tradition and decided to look it up. I found the information in the local newspaper 🙂

  3. Ah interesting. Wasn’t aware of this. Thanks for letting us all know 😀 Im fascinated with traditions and customs of countries and different ethnicities 😉

    ~ Thanks, Sumera! Same here: I love learning about customs and traditions, and truly admire those who work towards preserving their traditions and heritage instead of imitating others in a attempt to become “modern”.

  4. We don’t have it in Lahore, but when we go to our native town, there we have “rooza khol lo, gola hoo giya hai” 😆

    ~ So instead of firing cannons, they just announce ke “gola hogaya”? Hehe.

  5. No, someone from the family would say “I heard the gola” then the other would say, “nahi hoa”…and in all this ‘discussion’, gola kaheen hoo bhee jata hai aur pata bhee nahi chalta! 😀

    ~ LOL

  6. Interesting. In Bangladesh we used to have kids banging on drums walking the streets early before fajr to wake people up for sehri. These were mostly poor people and they would show up on Eid to collect Eidi for their this “service”.

    ~ Hehe, that job was done by the “chowkidar” in Karachi, and would also collect Eidi for his services. The masjid’s Imam would also wake people up for Sehri by reminding everyone of the time on the loudspeaker. I miss home.

  7. That’s kinda cool. This is first I’ve ever heard of it. Very practical in the old times, and interesting to keep it up.

    ~ Yes, it is a very interesting tradition, and definitely practical during the times when there weren’t loudspeakers and microphones. We look forward to watching it on TV every Iftaar time 🙂

  8. My uncle who lives in Sharjah told me that this is how they break their fast too 🙂 I want to spend one Ramadan in a Muslim country sometime in the future.

    ~ And when you do get to spend Ramadan in a Muslim country, you will enjoy it to the fullest, InshaAllah 🙂

  9. hey this should be something i would like to add to my list of things to see before i die!!

    ~ Why not this Ramadan? Masood and I are planning to see the cannon sometime next weekend, InshaAllah.

  10. wow this is something i’ve never heard or exp before….
    i wish we’ve something like that 🙁

    we look at the clock and open our fast

    ~ I’ve only experienced it here in the U.A.E., and that too only on television. My husband and I are planning to see this interesting tradition ourselves during the weekend, InshaAllah.

    We still do look at the clock everyday during Iftar 😀

  11. Mashallah, all the great things I hear about Sharjah; it really makes me want to move there 🙂

    ~ If you do move here, there’s a very high chance that your office will be in Dubai, therefore you’ll have to deal with a one-and-a-half to two hours of drive to work (an otherwise 30 minutes drive without the traffic) 😀 Other than that, Sharjah is a great place to live in 🙂

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