Nothing signifies the Holy Month quite like the deafening boom of cannon fire at sunset. Here’s the story behind this iconic symbol of Ramadan.

There are many competing legends about the firing of the cannon over Ramadan, but they all have one thing in common – the tradition started quite by accident.

Some historians believe that the custom dates back to as far as 10th century Egypt, when one of the Fatimid caliphs ordered a cannon to be placed on Cairo’s Muqatam Hill so all Muslims would hear the signal to break their fasts.

Another story dates back to the 15th century, when a Mumluk sultan of Egypt wanted to test out a cannon he had recently acquired. He just so happened to fire a ball at sunset, and people assumed this was his thoughtful way of letting them know they were allowed to break the fast.

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Another version attributes the blast to Ismail the Magnificent, ruler of Egypt and Sudan in the late 19th century. His soldiers were said to be cleaning one of his cannons when it fired by mistake.

Again, the public interpreted this as a new Ramadan ritual, and congratulated him on his genius. His daughter, Princess Fatimah, knew good PR when she saw it, and issued a decree saying from then on, the cannon would always be used to mark iftar.

Known as midfa al iftar, the Ramadan cannon remains a much-loved custom to this day – even though most Muslims now have convenient smartphone apps telling them exactly when they can break the fast.

In Dubai, the practice was introduced sometime in the 20th century, during the rule of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum. In the 1960s, Dubai Police were entrusted with the important task, which they are still responsible for today.

Where to see Ramadan cannons in 2022

The Dubai Police iftar cannons will operate in 11 locations during Ramadan 2022, with a single shot fired at sunset every day.

There are five fixed locations this year, so each evening you can find cannons at Atlantis The Palm, Burj Khalifa, Al Seef, Al Waheda at Century Mall Dubai, and in Hatta, where the cannon is positioned in front of Emirates Co-operative Society and Hatta Hill Park.

There will also be mobile cannons that will alternate between 11 locations across Dubai. For three days, iftar cannons will be stationed at Al Satwa, near the Big Mosque; Al Quoz, close to Al Anbiya’a Mosque; Al Lisaili — near Al Nahda National School — Lahbab, near Lahbab Community Park 1; Al Aweer, near Sheikh Hamdan Mosque; Al Khawaneej, near Ahmed Al Habbai Mosque, and Muhaisnah, near Abdul Rahim Mohammed Kti Mosque.

The following two days, cannons will be sited at Al Warqa, near the Big Mosque; Jebel Ali, near Ibn Battuta Mall and Ain Dubai; Nad Al Sheba, near Nad Al Sheba Park, and Al Barsha near Al Buhaira Park.

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