Scenes from a Mall: US Brands Promoting Ramadan

August 17th, 2011

When I was in Seattle during the first week of Ramadan, I heard about Whole Foods’ Ramadan Promotion. Whole Foods would be the first major American supermarket to have a Ramadan campaign. I thought: Awesome!

This promotion quickly turned controversial. A small but vocal group of Islamophobe bloggers claimed that promoting Ramadan meant supporting terrorism and jihadism, and was “anti-Israel.”

Regardless of how ignorant and idiotic these claims were, some regions of Whole Foods pulled back from their promotion. At least one region of the company wanted to dissassociate from Ramadan. One company executive clarified that they would not be “celebrating or promoting Ramadan” in their stores.


Whole Foods tried to correct the inconsistencies, pointing out it was simply an online campaign with no in-store signage promoting Ramadan–even though they have signage for Christmas, Passover and Easter.

Meanwhile, back in Dubai, I was admiring the beautiful Ramadan decorations in the mall, and it occurred to me how many US brands do indeed “promote” Ramadan—outside of the US, that is.

There are countless American companies in Dubai who have special packaging or products for Ramadan or beautiful window decorations or simply signage wishing customers “Ramadan Kareem.” In fact, there are too many US brands to list here.

Instead, I offer you a visual sample of US brands promoting Ramadan. Photos taken at Dubai Mall & Mall of the Emirates.

First up, Banana Republic.



Crate & Barrel has some lovely Ramadan signage.

The Gap has a particularly colorful display. 

Starbucks serves coffee in a special cup during Ramadan.

 Forever 21 offers chic Ramadan signage AND gives a charity donation for every purchase.

The Hallmark store sells Ramadan cards. 

 Clinque has some clever Ramadan signage. That’s lipstick in the cresent moon.

 Bath & Body Works has some pretty Ramadan signage and decoration.

Finally, saving the best for last: Bloomingdale’s at Dubai Mall is my favorite US Brand for promoting Ramadan in a creative way. Their window displays are super-chic and intricately arranged with layers of Arabian-themed items–more stunning than captured in my snapshots.



Question: What your thoughts on Whole Foods’ Ramadan Promotion? Or on other US Brands promoting Ramadan?

  1. August 18th, 2011 at 00:18 | #1

    I was just at Ibn Battuta Mall and took photos of their Ramadan/Eid gift boxes. They are lovely aren’t they? I will be featuring them in article as well…interesting how we both have similar ideas and/or concerns:) My photos do not compare to yours though…great job and good topic Thanks for sharing

  2. August 18th, 2011 at 03:53 | #2

    Oh my gosh!!! If only the Americans’ knew! (tongue in cheek!) That’s awesome to see!

  3. Carla Stern
    August 18th, 2011 at 05:00 | #3

    Interesting. Corporations know what the bottom line is.

  4. Danielle
    August 18th, 2011 at 05:45 | #4

    Thanks for that, Holly! Sad that WF was pressured into being less inclusive. I was wondering how Americans would react to the billboard on Sheik Zayed Road…Ford Makes Ramadan Special 🙂 You can barely get any more American than Ford!

  5. Maureen Kay
    August 18th, 2011 at 06:27 | #5

    Very interesting information and fun for me to see these photos. And so disturbing that there is such a double standard when it comes to Ramadan in the US. Change will come, and people will look back on this time incredulous at the blatant discrimination.

  6. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 18th, 2011 at 10:57 | #6

    @Maureen Kay Thanks for your comment and your thoughts. I hope you are right about the future. We’ll see…

    @Zvezdana Thank you for the kind words. Looking forward to reading your article.

    @Danielle I have not see that Ford billboard. But I will look for it now!

  7. Busy Mommy
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:55 | #7

    Was utterly disappointed in Whole Foods, a market chain I loved and shopped at in the US. I could understand if they had a blanket company policy against promoting any religious holiday…but come December, they stock the finest in Christmas-time foods and deck their halls with lots of holly.

    What is wrong with celebrating Ramadan or Christmas or Kwanzaa or any other holiday that AMERICANS celebrate? You know what I love about Dubai (and I know not all Islamic countries are like this, but this is where I live)? When Diwali rolls around, everyone knows. When Christmas rolls around, everyone knows. When Ramadan rolls around, everyone knows.

    In this simple way, I sometimes feel like Dubai is more contemporary and open-minded than Main Street, USA…and that’s really, really unfortunate. 🙁

  8. Seattle Mama
    August 18th, 2011 at 15:11 | #8

    Beautiful decorations and it certainly makes things more festive (Ramadan is not festive in the US).
    I wouldn’t want Ramadan to go as far to the commercialism madness that Christmas has become though. In the past few years the local news station has posted banners wishing a Happy Ramadan. This was especially common the years that it came during the Christmas/Hannukah season. I thought that was great and I didn’t hear about any backlash from that.

  9. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 18th, 2011 at 17:38 | #9

    @Busy Mommy Thanks for your comment. I agree. Dubai is more advanced in some areas. 😉 The US still has a ways to go to reach true religious tolerance. In the mean time, Happy Ramadan!

    @Seattle Mama So true that the commercialism madness of Christmas is over-the-top. I don’t think Ramadan would reach those levels simply because Ramadan doesn’t revolve around gift-buying the way Christmas does (nor does Eid). I think that’s great about the local news station mentioning Ramadan. Then again, you’re in Seattle and Seattle is a bit more progressive than much of the country. Of course, I’m seriously biased in this regard!! Thank you for visiting my blog.

  10. okyrhoe
    August 19th, 2011 at 08:57 | #10

    nice images, I linked two of them to my Pinterest boards

  11. August 20th, 2011 at 10:03 | #11

    Hi Holly,
    It’s unfortunate what happened with Whole Foods but at the end of the day, companies “promote” holidays as part of their marketing strategies so when in Dubai, promote Ramadan because enough consumers will reward you. In the States, they know there are consumers that will reward them, but they also figured that many more will punish them for it.

  12. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 20th, 2011 at 11:26 | #12

    @Soha Good point. I agree, Soha, it comes down to marketing stategy and profit. I’m hoping for a bit of a shift in the US though. However, I may have to wait a while for that to happen…. In the mean time, Ramadan Kareem to you!

  13. August 27th, 2011 at 17:54 | #13

    I love it! There’s a big part of me that disdains hypocrisy and misrepresentation. I’d love for more folks in the US to see this and realize Islam is just another set of beliefs that people are free to pursue. Broadening horizons and freedom is what the country was founded on, not closing the door once you’re inside.

    Nice photos and insightful commentary. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 27th, 2011 at 23:17 | #14

    @Katrina I agree and I like how you expressed yourself. Thanks for stopping by.

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