Whether you’re a Non-Muslim living in the UAE or new to the region, here are some important things to keep in mind during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
About the Holy Month of Ramadan
Ramadan is a time when practicing Muslims aim to grow spiritually and nurture their faith. They do this by refraining from pleasures like food, drink, and smoking from sunrise to sunset. The Holy Month falls during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and as the calendar is lunar, the start date moves forward every year by about 10 days – with Ramadan expected to run from 22 March to 22 April this year.
Most Muslims spend their time in prayer, performing charitable acts, and purifying the mind and body during Ramadan and many Muslim countries shorten workdays to allow for additional prayer time – including the UAE where working hours for those in the public sector are generally from about 9am until 2pm.
DO’S IN RAMADAN
DO wish your Muslim friends and colleagues a happy Ramadan. You can do this in Arabic by saying “Ramadan Kareem.”
DO dress appropriately. There are already guidelines on how to dress in public, but you should be especially aware of your fashion choices during Ramadan. Ideally, make sure your clothes cover your shoulders and knees.
DO accept any invitations to Iftar (the meal after sunset). It’s considered an honour to be invited and is a great way to experience the culture.
DO be patient. Work might be a little less productive and things may not run as smoothly as they usually do during Ramadan. Your colleagues who are fasting may be a little more tired than usual, so be patient with them.
DO remember that your office hours are likely to change, whether you’re Muslim or not. With that means the rush hours will occur at different times – expect an earlier morning rush hour from 7am to 9am and a much earlier ‘evening’ rush hour as people leave work at 3pm to 4pm.
DO embrace the night. The city comes to life again after Iftar, so you better adjust your body clock to enjoy the things you normally enjoy in Dubai!
DO be very careful on the roads. Some people might be rushing home for Iftar which can mean an increase in car accidents during Ramadan.
DO embrace the culture. Take your family to one of the many hotel-based Iftar tents, play a set of backgammon or bring a deck of Uno cards, enjoy Moroccan mint tea and Arabic delicacies and relish the fact that you live in the Middle East.
THINGS TO AVOID IN RAMADAN
DON’T eat, drink, or smoke in public. There will be designated areas in public spaces – but if it isn’t clear, it’s best to look for alternative locations. Most restaurants and cafes will remain open during the day to serve those who are not fasting.
DON’T tell your Muslim friends you’re thinking about fasting to lose weight. Fasting symbolises so much more than that and this can be quite offensive to those who observe Ramadan. You’re more than welcome to fast if you’re a non-Muslim, but make sure it’s for the right reasons.
DON’T listen to loud music. Keep your headphone volume down this month as loud music may be considered offensive to those who are observing Ramadan.
DON’T worry if it sounds like a lot is going to change. Ramadan is a peaceful, quiet time of the year that should be experienced with an open spirit.
DON’T leave dinner reservations until the last minute – restaurants across Dubai will become a lot busier as families and friends meet to break their fasts together.
DON’T count on happy hour. Remember that while public intoxication isn’t allowed in Dubai under normal circumstances, during Ramadan it’s particularly risky.
DON’T get into debates, arguments, or fights during Ramadan. It is the month of peace and serenity. Swearing in public is particularly offensive during this time.
DON’T kiss or hug your partner or friends of the opposite sex in public. While this is a rule to bear in mind throughout the rest of the year, demonstrative acts of affection with members of the opposite sex will cause offence during Ramadan.