Virginia Alumni Celebrate Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates

Alumni of 5 different Virginia universities gathered in Dubai for Suhour to observe Ramadan and appreciate the cultural experiences of the holy month of Ramadan.

June 27, 2017, Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

Today, Muslims around the world will return to work after enjoying their final Eid-Al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Alumni of Virginia universities, living in the United Arab Emirates, gathered in Dubai earlier this month to enjoy a Suhour meal together. Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar for Muslims, commemorates when the Quran, or Muslim holy book, was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by the Archangel Gabriel in 610 CE in a mountain cave, near Makkah, in western Saudi Arabia.

During this month, observers abstain from physical needs such as food and water during daylight hours and focus attention on prayer and religious discipline. Each evening, the fast is broken with the Iftar meal when the sun sets and a final Suhour just before sunrise or very late in the evening.
The alumni who participated are involved in a broader informal network of alumni from all public universities in Virginia (and some private) currently living and working in the UAE.

The network includes a broad spectrum of faiths, nationalities, and backgrounds - representing the diversity of the region. Some alumni were born and raised in Virginia or elsewhere in the United States and are working temporarily in the UAE. Some alumni were born or raised in the UAE or another country and travelled to Virginia to study. And a few are Emirati citizens who studied in a Virginia university.

Mehak Butaney (University of Virginia, Engineering, 2011) organized the event. "The attendance in our group is culturally diverse so I try to keep in mind everyone's tastes. At the same time, I like to stay in tune with the constantly evolving culinary scene in Dubai," Butaney said.

Butaney has experience managing and embracing that diversity. She is a Dubai-lifer, born and raised in Dubai, but maintaining strong ties and citizenship in her home country, India. She and fellow alum, Nabila Popal (University of Virginia, Commerce, 2004), first began volunteering their time in 2013 to organize events for University of Virginia alumni in the UAE.

"The Ritz DIFC is a firm favorite...the relaxing ambience, the authentic dishes and the modern take on traditional flavors created a truly memorable experience for those from the region and those new to the region," she added.

The informal opportunities to meet offer alumni connection back to their experiences in Virginia studying.

"I have attended a couple of the past events, and have had a great time at each one due to the great diversity of the people attending," said UAE national Mohammed AlNakhi, (Virginia Tech, Engineering, 2001). "This is a great event to meet new people and learn about the different industries and contributions that the Virginia Alumni are making, and you never know how useful expanding your network might help in the future."

As Americans represent only a small percentage of the UAE expat population, the gathering also provides a sense of connection back to home.

"The VA Alumni Suhoor was the first time in my four years in Dubai that I have met so many Americans, all connected to VA universities, who are now working and living in Dubai. I enjoyed meeting alumni from UVA, Virginia Tech, VMI, and William & Mary [working] in the fields of everything from risk analysis to accounting to even management programs in the Office of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum," said Virginian Valerie Bradley (University of Mary Washington, International Affairs, 2011). "It is wonderful to learn and share how we all found ourselves in the UAE, and to explore mutual connections and opportunities through our shared networks in the UAE and US."

Volunteers within the network continue to reach out to Virginia universities and alumni in the region to provide support, increase opportunities to raise the visibility of Virginia schools in the region, and to help make Virginians aware of this network.

About Virginia Alumni in the UAE:
The Virginia Alumni in the UAE is an informal umbrella network for alumni from the Virginia higher education system in the UAE. It is completely volunteer and coordinated by alumni from these schools. The Virginia Alumni in the UAE provides support to new students in the UAE headed to Virginia as well as social gatherings among the diverse alumni in the region. The network currently has 300+ alumni from the following schools: Virginia Tech, James Madison, George Mason, William & Mary, University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute, University of Mary Washington, Radford, Longwood, and University of Richmond. Volunteers continue to reach out to alumni from other schools based in Virginia.

Further press inquiries can be made to Aubrilyn Reeder at aubrilyn@gmail.com or +971 52 699 0694.

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