The Holy Month of Ramadan

Ramadan

Every year, more than one billion Muslims around the globe observe the Holy month of Ramadan. It is a time for reflection, worship and self-control. Muslims show their devotion to Allah by abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and other physical desires from sunrise to sunset throughout the month – while at the same time avoiding sinful thoughts and deeds. These are just some of the activities that are intended to promote spiritual development through self-sacrifice and clean living. Time to purify the soul refocus attention on Allah.

Life in Al Ain during Ramadan
For many non-Muslim expatriates living in Al Ain, the biggest change is having to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public. In the worst case, failure to do so can result in arrest. In practice, this means no cups of tea or coffee while at work, as well as no snacking or smoking in the car. In addition, dancing and loud music is forbidden, so nightclubs close for the month of Ramadan.

Some expats cope with the demands of Ramadan by leaving the UAE. It’s a popular time of year for visiting family back home or going on holiday. Other expats adopt an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach, choosing to take part in the rituals and attitudes of Ramadan. This can be a very rewarding and interesting experience. It is an opportunity to experience culture and customs very different from their own.

As mentioned earlier, smoking, eating and drinking are forbidden during the day, therefore non-fasting expats will need to alter their daily routines. The widespread closure of restaurants and cafes during the day can inconvenience many expats, of whom some find themselves fasting alongside their Muslim colleagues and friends out of necessity rather than empathy – they simply can’t find anywhere to buy food. In recent years though, more leniency has been allowed and some food outlets and hotels have been given permission to open on the condition that all windows and doors are covered so no one can be seen eating or drinking by passers-by. As well as this, nightlife options change with the prohibiting of loud music or dancing although the evenings come alive in a different way with the mushrooming of Ramadan tents and entertainment. Alcohol is also still available for purchase by non-Muslims after Iftar.

Ramadan officially starts and ends with the sighting of a new moon and the month of Shawwal begins. It is followed by the Eid Al Fitr, a three-day holiday and celebration of feasting and the exchange of gifts.

The Do’s and Don’ts during Ramadan

Do
•Embrace the spirit of Ramadan. The Holy Month is a great time to get involved with local traditions and broaden your understanding of Islamic culture. Many hotels host nightly Iftar and Suhour banquets – attend at least one during this Islamic festival. Try the local dishes such as Harees, stuffed dates and Laban.
•Check timings. Many businesses, restaurants and recreational facilities will change their timings during Ramadan, so to avoid disappointment do check before heading-off.
•Have a king’s breakfast. Make sure you have a good breakfast before venturing out for the day. Many eateries will be shut during Ramadan and it may be hard to get something to eat during the day.
•Be respectful. Ramadan calls for Muslims to cleanse their entire mind and body, which includes refraining from swearing, gossip or insults. So avoid this kind of talk when in the presence of someone who is fasting.
•Turn the music down. Loud music is forbidden during Ramadan. So keep speaker at home and in the car at a low volume.
•Public affection is not appropriate. Public displays of affection are extremely frowned upon in Islam, but particularly during Ramadan.
•Be patient. Keep in mind that others haven’t eaten since the before-dawn meal, so they’re likely hungry, tired, and potentially grouchy. Slow down and be patient.
•Ask someone. If unsure about Ramadan ask someone. At least one work colleague is bound to be fasting and would probably be more than happy answer any questions about Ramadan.

  • Be careful on the roads. In the hour before Iftar, people are in a hurry to return home to break their fast. Driving can sometimes be erratic.

Don’t
•Eat or drink in public during daylight hours. Eat and drink in a closed off area, out of sight of anyone who could be fasting.
•Smoke in public. Again, the same rules apply, choose somewhere that is completely out of sight of anyone fasting.
•Dress inappropriately. It is important that dress is conservative during Ramadan. Out of respect women should keep their shoulders and cleavage covered and should not wear shorts or skirts that finish above the knee. For men, it’s the area between the navel and knee that should particularly be kept covered.
•Get upset with neighbours. Muslim neighbours will likely eat and socialize in the evening – much more than usual and generally later than usual. In Ramadan all social activities are left until after Iftar and so it is normal to see families up very late.