Ramadan Kareem: Arabian Theme Tents

Ramadan is a sacred month for all Muslims around the world. However, in Qatar and the Gulf Region lavish evening tents are popular for corporate Iftars and Suhoors. Erika Widén writes about the concept behind these tents and why millions of Qatari Riyals are invested in them.

Qatar is a historic, cultural, and religious country that respects and adheres to its Islamic practices. In the ninth month of the Islamic calendar it is a holy time for all Muslims around the globe.Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and other temptations during daylight hours. In the Gulf region in particular it is known that during this time all locals remain in their respective countries. More than a religious month for Qataris, Ramadan is part of their heritage and spiritual identity that they look forward to all year.

Ramadan varies each Gregorian calendar year moving eleven days back every year depending on the moon cycle. It is a sacred month in which it is believed the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Throughout the Gulf, it is the time when massive luxurious tents with an Arabian theme are set up in most five star hotels to host Iftars and Suhoors. Iftar is the first meal of breaking the fast at sunset and Suhoor is the meal before sunrise. However, Iftars and Suhoors are very popular among the business community in the Gulf. Since business is known to be slow during this time, corporate Iftars and Suhoors are also considered the ideal time for marketing
and networking.


TheEDGE spoke with Hoss Vetry, cluster general manager of the Ritz Carlton hotels of Qatar to find out more about these popular tents, he said: “We start preparing almost ten months before Ramadan. We obviously put a tremendous emphasis on the design and always update and change the design with a new concept each year…you will never see the same band twice at any of our hotels. We respect and try to be in compliance with the local authorities, local culture and most importantly in respect to the holy period. Our focus on the design of the tent will always be very classic and elegant, traditional, and relevant to our geographical location, and most importantly in line with Ritz-Carlton standards.”

Vetry added that the theme is always oriental and the tent is the concept, and to set everything can take up to two weeks. “We want to give everyone the image and feel of being inside of a tent whenever one enters the hall. We play with the colours carefully and tastefully, and always make necessary changes to the design in order to complement the room and this year the colour theme is the accent of orange and green.”

He also said that each year even the chairs are upgraded, since the average customer stays for two to three hours, it is important to ensure visitors have the most comfortable seating.

Joe Ghayad, hotel manager of Al Sharq Village and Spa told TheEDGE that the idea of the tent is to entertain and is unique in the Gulf region. He also added that nowadays there is competition between hotels for who has the best tent, the most food, and the most authentic Arabian touch.

When it comes to the cost of the tent it may be up to millions of Qatari riyals, and it is not considered a profitable business. The idea is not to profit just to entertain, therefore it is common to have sponsors to support the costs.

“We don’t necessarily look at it from a financial point of view because there is a tremendous cost putting a tent together, but this is more a celebration of the occasion, which is why we do the tent: to be aligned with the occasion and part of the day’s activities,” added Vetry.


Of course it is popular that most prominent organisations send and receive corporate invites to attend either an Iftar or Suhoor and also support support a charity. Charity is an important aspect in Islam. According to the tradition Ramadan is a blessed time to be charitable, as it is believed that the reward is greater than any other time of the year.

Fahad Zainal, chief administration officer of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, said: “The Qatar Financial Centre’s mission to help the development of Qatar’s financial sector involves important obligations to the whole community. This is especially so at times such as Ramadan when people come together to express their beliefs and culture.  As we did last year, we will select a charitable organisation and one of that organisation’s projects to promote among our employees, QFC licensed firms and their clients during Ramadan. We will also hold a Suhoor event at which the QFC community can mingle and where information about the selected charitable activity will be available.”

According to Vetry it is a good cause for companies as an appreciation, as well as sharing such a holy time with their customers. Also since it is impossible to invite the whole company to one’s house or one’s business premises, therefore a hotel makes it possible.

“This is actually a very good gesture from many companies and we do, for instance we are inviting charity, we have one night where we invite a charity of our choice to come in and we feed them,” added Vetry. “We are going to serve food at the labour camps…about fourteen thousand meals and is going to be part of the cost of the Ramadan tent.”

TheEDGE asked a representative from Darwish Holding for their perspective behind organising either an Iftar or Suhoor for their guests. “Ramadan is a month of compassion, appreciation and sharing, and we at Darwish Holding make sure we embrace this holy month and its values with our employees, partners and clients. We are keen to make this occasion an unforgettable memory as it expresses a small ‘Thank You’ to the community we are operating in.”

From a religious perspective Ramadan is about giving gifts, being thankful and generous.

“The good thing about the companies when they do these Iftar or Suhoor is that they do not differentiate between high and low employees. They want everyone together, which is the beauty about it,” added Ghayad. “It is really to say thank you to the people who have worked for them for a long time. That is the idea behind it…you see them mingle and mix with general managers and employees that work at gas stations…they eat the same food in the same area.”

According to Ghayad in the last two years more expatriates are coming to enjoy the tent, since it is something new to them. “They are early birds [expatriates]. Usually the locals come quite late, after ten or eleven.”

The tents are open for everyone during the holy month of Ramadan, and the price to enjoy the buffet is reasonable. Traditionally, Ramadan is spent with the family at home and visiting the elderly and other families. Arabs are known to host their guests with lavish hospitality, and the tents are open to welcome the community to experience Ramadan’s warmth in a simple, stylish setting.

This article first appeared in TheEDGE 4.7/8, July, August 2012.


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