The sun, sunlight, sunrise and sunset all play a vital role in Arabic culture, much more so than in northern Europe.

Sunrise and sunset are reflected in the Arabic names mashriq and maghreb. The Arabic countries east of Egypt and north of Saudi Arabia are known as Mashriq. Literally this means ‘place of sunrise’. The Arabic countries west of Egypt are known as Maghreb, ‘the place of sunset’. In Arabic al-maghreb is often used to refer to Morocco.

The Arabic word for sun is shams. You will find it in scores of personal or family names. One of these is the name Shams ad-Din (Sun of Religion), which exists as both a personal and a family name.

You can also find the ‘sun’ in the Arabic alphabet, where one group of letters is called ‘sun letters’, Huruuf shamsiya.

The sun and Ramadan
Another example of the importance of the sun is Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Muslims are not allowed to eat and drink from sunrise to sunset.

The word for dawn prayers at sunrise is fajr. This is the first of the five daily prayers (Salaat), which are a duty for Muslims. The word fajr comes from the Arabic root, which means ‘explosion’, since the sun comes up very suddenly with ‘explosive’ colour.

Arab countries adopt solar power
The Middle East and North African countries, blessed by ample sunlight and open space, are increasingly adopting solar power.

In 2013, the Shams solar power station, a 100-megawatt (MW) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant near Abu Dhabi became operational. It is the largest CSP plant outside the United States and Spain and is expected to be followed by two more stations, Shams 2 and Shams 3.

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is designed to be the most environmentally sustainable city in the world. The city relies entirely on renewable energy.

According to a recent article in CNBC, “Arab Gulf firms set their sights on the region’s growing appetite for solar power. Some of the world’s top oil exporters want to be major players in solar power, too. Analysts say meeting solar demand at home is just the start. Some of these companies could become global competitors in the fast-growing market for large solar power plants. They are also entering the market at an opportune time. The cost of providing utility-scale solar power has plummeted in recent years. In the United States, it fell about 60 percent from the 2007-2009 period to 2015. So these countries can actually benefit from being a bit late to the game.”

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