Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is one of the most important months for Muslims. There’s no doubt that for non-Muslim expats life in Dubai changes during Ramadan, but it’s equally true that this annual observance provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the traditional culture and cuisine of our fair Emirate.
Tolerant though it is, Ramadan serves as healthy reminder that Dubai remains a predominantly Muslim city. As such, it is vital to understand the rules of public conduct during the Holy Month. Here are some essential do’s and don’ts to steer you in the right direction. But remember, Muslim or not, all can appreciate the overarching themes this month, that of of tolerance, compassion, gratitude and above allcharity.
Do Exchange Ramadan Greetings. It is customary to use the greeting “Ramadan Kareem” when meeting Muslims, and at the end of Ramadan, for the three day Eid celebrations, “Eid Mubarak”. You may feel uncomfortable to say the foreign words now but during the month of Ramadan the greetings are everywhere and using them is appreciated.
Do Be Charitable. An important element of the Holy Month is to be generous to those less fortunate by donating food, clothes or money to individuals and charitable organisations. Muslims are expected to give Zakat which is approximately 2.5% of their annual savings to the less fortunate. However the spirit of giving is all around with many charities such as Adopt-A-Camp allowing everyone to get involved in some way. If you would like to acknowledge your Muslim maid or gardener, a token gift will be appropriate and much appreciated.
Do Be Considerate. Fasting can play havoc with a person’s eating and sleeping habits, so be sympathetic to people around you. If you feel yourself getting irate or angry just take a deep breath and smile. Remember that it is difficult to function on no food and water.
Do Quit Smoking. As with eating and drinking, smoking is not allowed in public during the Holy Month of Ramadan. It’s the perfect time to quit; go on…. you know you want to! This is probably the best time to quit as smoking areas are few and far between and you will already be forced to cut down due to lack of smoking space.
Do smoke, drink and eat in the privacy of your home, hotel room or office. If you work in a shared or open plan office simply designate a room where the door can be closed. The point here is to be respectful to those colleagues that are fasting.
Do be aware that office hours will change which will in turn affect traffic patterns. Peak traffic will occur earlier than normal, 7am – 9am and 1pm – 3pm. An additional rush hour occurs at 8pm – midnight.
Do avoid driving close to sunset. It can be hazardous during this time as the roads fill with people rushing to break the fast at Iftar celebrations. Remember many drivers will not have had anything to eat or drink all day so exercise caution.
Do dress conservatively. Avoid going to public places like shopping centers and parks wearing shorts, mini-skirts or sleeveless outfits. This law is applicable all year round, but during Ramadan sensitivities are heightened.
Do make reservations for dinner. Most of the cities shopping malls and public places will become hives of activity after sunset lasting until late at night. This also means that restaurants and hotels will be crowded so if you plan to eat out book ahead.
Do make the most of the community spirit and sumptuous food to be found in the Iftar tents at the city’s hotels. It’s a great opportunity to relax, play games and experience some traditional Arabic cuisine and entertainment.
Don’t dance, sing or be intoxicated in public at any time. Most major nightclubs will close for Ramadan. Bars and pubs will generally remain open but will only serve alcohol after dark. Similarly, liquor stores will only sell after dark. There is also no live music and nothing above quiet background music in bars and pubs.
Don’t play loud music at any time in your car, on the beach or even at home. You can play music; just make sure it can’t be heard outside your car or home and use headphones on the beach.
Don’t wear revealing or tight fitting clothes in public, modesty is key during Ramadan. This includes when you are heading for a night out.
Don’t smoke, drink, chew gum or eat in public during the hours of sunrise to sunset. This includes while you are driving as well as public places such as malls, cinemas or offices.
Don’t swear in public. Blasphemy is frowned upon at the best of times, but during the Holy Month of Ramadan it’s particularly offensive.