The Holy Month is an extra special time in the region. If you’re a new UAE expat or tourist, these are some of the traditions, rules, and phrases to be aware of.

As we enter the Holy Month of Ramadan, the first thing to know is that observing Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s a time of fasting for Muslims – not eating or drinking anything during daylight hours. It is also an extended period of prayer, personal reflection, and giving back to the community.

If it’s your first-time experiencing Ramadan in the UAE it will likely leave a lasting impression. You’ll notice a beautiful feeling of calm and wellbeing in the air.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. This year, it began on 10 March and will end after 30 days with the sighting of a new moon.

To get the most out of this special time, here are some important things to note.

The main terms

Iftar – This is the meal at sunset where Muslims break their fast. Most restaurants offer sumptuous buffets with a wide selection of food, so it’s a great opportunity to sample some traditional fare and soak in the happy vibe.

Suhoor – This is the meal before Muslims start their fast – a very early breakfast before sunrise. It usually takes place at home with the family; however, you will find some restaurants open for suhoor.

Maghrib – This is the prayer performed at sunset that marks the start of iftar when Muslims can eat again. Quite often the TV will show Ramadan timing and countdowns.

Fajr – This is the first prayer as the sun rises, marking when Muslims need to start their fast again.

Taraweeh and Isha – Taraweeh is an evening prayer performed during Ramadan, in addition to the nightly Isha prayer which is one of the five daily prayers.

“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” – Ramadan Mubarak means “Blessed Ramadan” and is often used in the same way as wishing somebody “Happy Ramadan”.

You’ll also see/hear “Ramadan Kareem” which translates as “Generous Ramadan.” Both are warm greetings that you can offer.

Staying respectful

There are a few rules that you should follow during the Holy Month. Don’t eat, drink, or smoke in public during daylight hours to avoid causing offense. Restaurants are still open though.

You should also dress more conservatively to show your respect.

Don’t play loud music from your car and keep your headphones volume down as it may be considered disrespectful to those who are observing Ramadan.

In general, just use common sense and you’ll be fine.

Get involved

Ramadan is a time when people get together with their families, reflect on their actions, pray, and support their communities. There are also plenty of ways that non-Muslims can get involved and experience the joy of the Holy Month.

Why not…

Give a meal – Just one meal can make a big difference for those less fortunate. You can cook something at home or pay for someone else’s bill at a restaurant. This is a great way of giving back in Ramadan.

Gift new clothes – During Eid Al Fitr (the holiday that signifies the end of Ramadan) people usually wear new clothes to signify a new beginning. Many charity organisations gather clothes for those who can’t afford them, such as orphans or the elderly. This is sure to put a smile on people’s faces.

Ask questions – You’ll likely have many Muslim friends or colleagues observing Ramadan. Why not ask them about the month, how they’re doing, and wish them well. There’s a lot to discover in the local UAE culture – it’s OK to be curious.