DUBAI, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Major retailers and hotels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have slashed their prices to stimulate consumption during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which started in the Gulf state on Thursday.
As the first weekend of this year's Ramadan is approaching, the UAE's shoppers flock to malls and supermarkets in Dubai.
To their joy, major grocery chain operators have put the food and beverages on sale by up to 75 percent off, local newspaper Gulf News reported.
Retailers and consumers were hit at the beginning of this year following the introduction of a 5-percent value-added tax, the first in the Gulf state's 46-year history, according to UAE's second biggest bank Emirates NBD.
In a store of Carrefour, a French global retailer brand, the price of a bundle of bananas has been reduced from 7.5 dirhams (2.04 U.S. dollars) to less than 4 dirhams.
Scores of local and international hotels also slashed their room rates in order to attract Muslim visitors from other Arab countries.
The number of Saudi Arabian tourists to Dubai usually increases during Ramadan, according to the official Dubai Tourism authority.
Le Royal Meridien, an international hotel brand, introduced discounts ranging from 10 to 20 percent for group bookings of evening meals after sunset.
Hotels also launch charity actions during Ramadan. Germany's Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay, for example, has set up Ramadan Sharing Fridges for neighboring community to have a drink or snack after they break their fast (have the first meal of day).
During Ramadan, Muslims do not drink, eat or smoke from sunrise until sunset. They usually break their fast with their family members and friends at sunset, followed by evening prayers.
The time when the sun disappears behind mountains or Gulf waters is marked by canon fire operated by UAE's police forces and by the call for prayer by the muezzin at one of the hundreds of mosques across the country.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five major duties any Muslim should do during his life. The other four obligations in Islam are the verbal commitment that one believes in God and Islam's prophet Mohamed (shahada), the five daily prayers (salat), the duty to donate (zakat) and the pilgrimage journey to Mecca (al-haj).
Children under 14 years old, the elderly, sick people, and pregnant and breastfeeding women are exempted from fasting.