In isolation, people have celebrated birthdays, births, graduations, Easter, Ramadan, and many other happenings that can't be postponed or canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the loneliness and agonizing sensation of missing those you love most, many individuals and families remained connected through social media and the internet in general. However, it wasn't only up to people to initiate continuous communication as tech giants hopped on the wagon as well, promoting new services to ease social distancing and the new routine of remaining home.
For Ramadan, specifically, staying in touch had to be maintained as millions around the world observe the holy month annually. The core traditions of the month, being spirituality, generosity, and fasting from dawn to sunset before breaking the fast with family and friends, are widely the same among Muslims. Still, each Muslim-majority country has a trick up its sleeve, with rituals only known to them.
This year, the aforementioned was kept in mind as we saw plenty of initiatives on behalf of the world's biggest tech companies successfully bring the holiest month in Islam online.
"We created the #GoogleRamadanBingo to help people explore how Ramadan is celebrated around the world with the help of Google's family of products like Search, YouTube, Assistant, Street View and more," Marwa Khost Jarkas, Communications and Public Affairs manager at Google, explained to us.
"The idea was generated because of the pandemic's implications on Ramadan and our daily routine. We wanted to remind everyone that although we're spending Ramadan at home, we can still join hands virtually and explore how the world around us celebrates this holy month," Mrs. Jarkas continued.
Gathering popular social media faces to reach a wider audience, Google partnered with South African Aqeelah Harron, Moroccan Sara Belehri, Algerian Inés Sebiane, Egyptian TV and radio host Sherif Noureldin, Jordan-Palestinian content creator Dana Allan, and Emirati Khalid Al Amiri along with his wife Salama.
"The activation was about exploration and experiencing different Ramadan traditions. We shared custom-made bingo cards with content creators in the UAE, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan and Egypt. Every task was linked to Ramadan traditions around the world," Mrs. Jarkas said.
Harron and Belehri were paired to discover each other's cultures all while using different products by Google. With the help of Google search, Harron learnt that "Awashir Mabrouka" is the Moroccan greeting used once the crescent has been confirmed, while Belehri discovered that "Boeber" is a traditional South African dessert that is usually prepared on the 15th day of Ramadan.
Sebiane was teamed up with Noureldin, and they both successfully solved the Ramadan riddle of the day, part of Google Assistant's all new "Fawazeer Ramadan". Sebiane also used Google maps to take her followers on a tour to the Pyramids of Giza.
As for Allan, she introduced her audience to the Indian culture and created her own greeting card on Qalam with Google. On the other hand, UAE's beloved couple Al Amiri and his wife Salama deep dived into the Indonesian Ramadan culture, learning all about the Indonesian Padusan Ritual during which Muslims cleanse themselves before Ramadan.
The Ramadan bingo challenge by Google was one way to celebrate diversity through technology and remind thousands of people that while traditions might not be the same, everyone is still connected.
Traditions and games aside, this imposed quarantine has effortlessly brought out the chef in each of us. Come Ramadan and its mouthwatering iftars, it was only normal to see "iftar recipes" top the searches online.
"This Ramadan, we saw an increase in searches for 'online Iftar' in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Looking for recipes became popular since the beginning of the pandemic but it saw its highest peak on Search and YouTube during the holy month," the Communications and Public Affairs manager told StepFeed.
Along with new recipes to try out and fast ones for those too lazy to spend two hours in the kitchen, old and new mousalsalat (series), the second most anticipated part of Ramadan, positioned themselves among top searches as well.
Online or off, Ramadan was exceptional this year. Let's hope 2021 will be kinder and have us experience both the usual traditions and recent online ones while everyone is safe and sound.