Last year I arrived in the UAE in the midst of Ramadan. Prior to my departure, I was told what to expect with Ramadan, which thankfully, helped me be prepared. Life basically shuts down from sun up to sun down for an entire month around here. But nightlife is hopping after sun down! So, what do you need to know about Ramadan? Here are a few pointers.
Firstly, Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month. A month for practicing people to focus on the core values of the religion including fasting, studying the Qur’an, reading up on Islamic Studies, donating to charity, and spending more time with family and friends. Things we all try to do at home in many of our own religions or non-religious lives…but focused upon for 30 days.
The fasting goes from sun up to sun down. Those who are fasting are allowed to wake early and eat a small meal called Suhoor. The fasting will then begin at sun up, and will be broken after the last call to prayer (BEAUTIFUL) which is at sunset.
The fast is broken with another small snack, typically of water and a couple dates. Then it’s time for Iftar later that evening with family and friends. EVERYONE is out for Iftar. A barren town all day, suddenly becomes bustling with excitement! If you’re around during Ramadan, make sure to sign up for one of the Iftar buffets…surely to be a one of a kind experience…and full of excellent food! We would go to the malls during the day, and they were EMPTY! Perfect time for window shopping peacefully. But at night, it’s a zoo…be prepared!
You can find places to eat during daylight hours, just be respectful. Many places will have shades drawn and private areas for non-fasting people to eat and drink. If you need to feed children, although they aren’t required to fast, it’s still polite to do it in private. We found ourselves in bathrooms a lot grabbing a drink of water, or in our tinted window cars giving them a quick snack on the go. But also be prepared for many places to be closed until sunset. Don’t plan on any early evenings out and about…it’s dead. If you want to go out and have fun during Ramadan, wait until at LEAST sunset…sometimes later. You’ll find yourself amongst many out on the town, and everything is open LATE!
Ramadan is taken very seriously here in the UAE. Those of any religion are encouraged to remain respectful while here during Ramadan. There are a few rules to heed during this time…which include:
- No eating or drinking in public places, even in the car (this includes chewing gum). There are exceptions to this rule, those being children 12 and under, nursing mothers, pregnant women, sick people, and soldiers.
- No loud music
- No loud behavior, including arguing, swearing, vulgarities
- Limit direct eye contact, especially with the opposite genders
- No smoking
- Dress modestly…adults should have at least covered shoulders and legs to the knee
In 2021, Ramadan starts (based on the moon) on April 12 and will last for 30 days.