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The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with its extended days of fasting and prayer meant to draw worshippers closer to God and away from worldly distractions, is getting reshaped by technologies.

Persons in the Middle East invest close to 58 million a lot more hours on Facebook for the duration of Ramadan and watch a lot more YouTube videos — all the things from beauty strategies and recipes to sports and Television dramas — than any other time of the year, generating the holy month not only the most critical one particular for Muslims, but also the prime time of the year for advertisers.

For Facebook, which also owns Instagram, and Google, which owns YouTube, Ramadan brings a welcome enhance of enterprise in the area.

“Consumption and time spent on our platforms does certainly improve,” mentioned Ramez Shehadi, Facebook’s managing director for Mideast and North Africa.

Persons remain up a lot a lot more at evening for the duration of Ramadan and have a lot more downtime — in particular prior to iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daylong speedy, and the “suhoor,” when folks collect to consume prior to a different day of fasting. Quite a few also perform shorter hours for the duration of the day.

All that translates to five% a lot more time spent on Facebook’s platforms, or what is almost 58 million a lot more hours, Shehadi mentioned. Place a different way, there are pretty much two million hours of further time spent every day on Facebook in the Mideast for the duration of Ramadan.

Ramadan is also the peak season for marketing in the area, as Television dramas and soap operas get a 151% improve in viewership on YouTube for the duration of the holy month, according to Google.

“Our income is a function of people’s engagement,” Shehadi mentioned. “The a lot more that they engage on our platforms, the a lot more that advertisers want to be capable to attain these that are engaging. That is what drives our income.”

So considerably ad income is spent for the duration of Ramadan that Google launched “The Lantern Award” to celebrate the most inventive and engaging advertisements of the month.

However Ramadan is not just about abstaining from meals and drink, like water, for the duration of the day. It is also about disconnecting from vacuous distractions and focusing on contemplation, introspection, acts of fantastic, charity and connecting with God. It can seem then as a contradiction that this is also when firms ramp up their efforts to get folks to purchase a lot more, view a lot more and engage in excess consumerism.

Google does not disclose total watch time for YouTube for the duration of Ramadan, but says that in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for instance, viewing of sports videos jumps by 22%, travel videos by 30%, and action games, simulation and video games by 10-20% for the duration of the holy month.

Persons also invest 27% a lot more time watching religious content material on YouTube in Ramadan.

“To us, YouTube brings folks with each other. We see a lot of folks wanting to watch factors with each other,” mentioned Joyce Baz, Google’s head of communications in Mideast and North Africa.

She added that Google items, like its search engine, are there “to simplify people’s lives so that they can concentrate on factors that matter like getting with their loved ones and household.” Google’s “Qibla Finder,” for instance, aids Muslims discover the path of Mecca to pray toward, wherever they take place to be.

Google says this year’s prime trending search queries for the duration of the initially week of Ramadan in Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia incorporated a surprising mix of Game of Thrones, prayer instances, Ramadan Television shows, film timings and English Premier League benefits.

Meanwhile, some of the most well-liked downloaded apps in the Mideast on the Google Play retailer for the duration of Ramadan consist of games like Stack Ball, streaming apps like Vu and Shahid and on-line retailers Noon and Jolly Chic.

Iftar evening meals are a significant social affair for the duration of Ramadan, ranging from lavish spreads at property to decadent 5-star hotel buffets. This translates into a 16% spike in beauty item searches and an 18% spike in searches for beauty strategies on YouTube, compared to the rest of the year. Also, according to Google maps, trips to the malls improve by a lot more than 20% in the final weeks of Ramadan in preparation for the Eid al-Fitr vacation, which ends the holy month.

Fatima el-Barbar, an Egyptian mother living in Dubai, mentioned she searches a lot more for recipes and watches her favourite Television dramas on-line for the duration of Ramadan. But she mentioned that involving her job, taking care of the young children, preparing iftar each and every evening, her every day prayers and reading the Quran, the Muslim holy book, there is small time for the online.

“I in fact have significantly less time for the online in Ramadan than in other days of the year,” she mentioned.

To assist firms far better have an understanding of customer habits in Ramadan, Google identified six categories of audiences: devoted watchers, devoted fasters, foodies, groomers, travelers and shoppers.

“YouTube is a companion for the duration of Ramadan, a platform exactly where viewers can watch what they want, anytime they want all through the day,” Google says in its personal pitch to advertisers.

To a lot more authentically connect with roughly 180 million customers in the Middle East, Facebook and Instagram launch particular Ramadan icons to give folks a lot more customized approaches of expressing themselves on-line. Instagram also has a campaign to market acts of kindness for the duration of the month.

“We’re attempting to be magnifiers and propagators of goodness as opposed to what could possibly look on the surface like an extension of consumerism,” Shehadi mentioned. “It resonates with the ethos of Ramadan and surely the ethos of Facebook, which is about bringing folks with each other about factors that matter to them.”

Haitham el-Ghoneim, a Jordanian resident in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, mentioned he makes use of Facebook to connect with mates for the duration of Ramadan, sharing classic greetings for the holy month and checking on his household in Jordan.

Nonetheless, he does not believe the rest of it — all that time spent on-line, on games, scrolling and advertisements — is a fantastic point. “It is not getting spent in a beneficial way. It is mainly fake news, or jokes and factors that have no advantage,” he mentioned.

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