Ramadan has crept up on us once again and with the moon sighting committee due to meet tonight, it’s highly likely that Ramadan will begin tomorrow, Monday 6th June 2016.There is certainly a sense of anticipation in the air, as Ramadan tents have been erected all over Abu Dhabi and Iftar previews are in full swing.
Ramadan (for those who don’t know) is a religious observance that marks one of the five acts of worship in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time in which the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
As illuminations fill the streets and malls open late into the night, non-Muslim may think of this month as a time where they are unable to eat or drink during daylight hours. Yet this being our third Ramadan in the UAE, there is more to it than just fasting. It is an exciting time to be here, so here are some tips on how to make the most out of this special time:
No Eating Or Drinking:
During fasting hours it is forbidden to eat, drink, chew gum or to smoke in public. Flaunting of this rule is not only disrespectful but can get you into a lot of trouble, including fines or possibly more severe punishments.
Yes it’s unbearably hot outside and non-Muslims can eat/drink etc within the comfort of their own homes or in specially designated restaurants within hotels (which will be curtained off from general view). For those who really need to eat, places like The Sportsman’s Arms, La Brioche, Nolu’s and Jones The Grocer will be open as usual during the holy month. For a full list click here:
There are exceptions to the fasting rule. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and the sick may be exempt from fasting.
Ramadan is a time of religious observance and the UAE is a Muslim country, so please dress respectfully. Tight fitting or short clothes should not be worn and beachwear is a definite no. Please try and be respectful by wearing loose fitting clothes that cover the knees and shoulders.
Ramadan is a time of charity and giving back. This can involve anything from doing good deeds to volunteering. During the holy month you are likely to encounter many charitable works and events throughout the city, so why not get involved and give a little back to our community. Giving to the poor and helping the needy is very common during Ramadan, so do your bit if you can, even small gestures will go a long way.
Public displays of affection are not the norm in the UAE anyway, but please be careful not to kiss or hug members of the opposite sex in public.
Blaspheming in public is a big no in the UAE, but vulgar language or being disrespectful to others should most definitely be avoided. Behaviour should be kept respectful at all times and fighting and arguments should be avoided. Remember, Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and resolving to be a better person!
No Loud Music Or Dancing:
Ramadan is a time of introspection and this can be affected by music and frivolous activities such as dancing or singing. You will notice that live music will stop and even restaurants and bars will be silent or have quite background music. So even if you are not observing Ramadan, ensure that you don’t drive you car with the windows down and the music blaring as this may cause offence.
Due to the excessive heat, fasting and late nights. Working hours and school timings are significantly reduced during Ramadan. Work starts later and finishes earlier to accommodate the fasting population so make the most of the shorter work day and ensure you say: “Ramadan Kareem” to all your colleagues.
Fast Yourself (If Only For One Day):
The best way to experience Ramadan and what it is all about, is to try and fast yourself – even if just for a day or two. It will give you a better idea of the Muslim culture and give you greater insight into what it means to fast.
During Ramadan the city sleeps by day and thrives at night as people break their fast with family and loved ones. This meal is known as Iftar, the breaking of one’s fast, following the Maghreb (sunset) prayer. Iftar is often a community gathering and an act that traditionally begins by eating three dates alongside a glass of milk.
Iftar is something that everyone should experience and with all hotels and restaurants offering their own unique twist, it is an enjoyable time to dine in the city. We recommend Iftar In The Cloud (St. Regis Abu Dhabi), Tresind (Nassima Royal Dubai) or Al Maeda (Doubletree Hilton, JBR).
If you’re lucky, you may even get invited into a friend of work colleagues home for a truly authentic Iftar experience. So make sure you accept any Iftar invitation that coms your way.
Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal that takes place prior to the daily fasting. These meals are also served throughout the city from approximately 3am and should be experienced at least once, even if you are not fasting.
Do Be Cautious On The Roads:
The roads of the UAE can be traffic heavy and often dangerous at the best of times, but exercise extra caution during the month of Ramdan. As lapses in concentration and focus can cause accidents. In the hours before and after sunset the roads can be exceptionally busy as people rush to mosques and Iftar gatherings. Try and avoid the roads at these times if at all possible, and if you must drive, take care.
Ramadan provides a unique experience to those of us living in the Arab world. Embrace everything around you and immerse yourself in the local culture. This is a special time of the year that ends with the colourful celebrations of Eid Al Fitr.
From Out & About UAE – Ramadan Kareem رمضان كريم