The Sharjah Police have placed cannons in nine locations in the city to be fired to announce the Iftar time during the holy month of Ramadan.
The locations are: near Sharjah Cultural Palace, Al Juraina, near Al Sari Mosque, Al Nour Mosque at Sharjah Waterfront, Al Mirgab, Musallah Al Badee in Al Talla, Bukhari Mosque at Khorfakkan Corniche, Tarif Mosque in Kalbam and near Al Dhaid police station.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, a top police officer said that firing cannons to announce the Iftar time was an old custom followed by Arab and Muslim countries.
A large number of people, including non-Muslims of various nationalities, gather near the cannons to enjoy the proceedings. Police patrols provide free Iftar to the gathering watching the firing of cannons.
Cannons in Sharjah
He explained that the tradition of firing cannons dated back to the early days of Islam, when it was decided that a cannon should be installed at the highest points of every city so that all Muslims could hear the shot signalling the time to end fast each day.
In the UAE, this custom started in Sharjah in 1803, during the rule of Sultan bin Saqr. The Imams were instructed by the Ruler not to call for Iftar until they heard the cannon shot.
The timing was determined by the Ruler upon the recommendation from a group of religious scholars.
The firing of the cannon became the responsibility of the Sharjah Police later, and has remained under their supervision until now. Historically, military cannons were used. These have now been replaced with sonic cannons.
Today, there is no practical reason for firing a cannon, but it is still continued in an effort to preserve the tradition. The Ramadan cannon has become symbolic and an integral part of the UAE 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. 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 fast and pray. They wave to the cameras and call their friends and family at home to watch them live on TV.
The Sharjah Government also provides Iftar meals to people who come to witness the cannon firing.
The officer urged the people coming together to watch the cannon firing not to park their vehicles in the middle of the road leading to traffic jams.