Ramadan is an extremely important time of the year for Muslims. You will notice a sense of calm around the city, and the locals tend to be particularly friendly during this time. Ramadan or Sawn is one of the five pillars which all Muslims follow, and it is thought that it was during this month that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
What is Ramadan?
Muslims fast during this period from sunrise to sunset. It’s not just food they aren’t allowed, but they also refrain from drink, tobacco, chewing gum and intimacy. It’s a time for reflection, renewing your faith and also for resisting temptation. Muslims spend a lot more time at prayer, and believe that fasting teaches modesty and sympathy for those less fortunate.
As soon as the sun sets in the evening, they break their fast and the call to prayer can be heard from local mosques. Many people will wake up just before sunrise to have some food before the fast begins. When the sun sets in the evening they will open the fast with a date and then enjoy a celebratory meal called Iftar.
Some people are exempt from Ramadan for a range of different reasons. Pregnant women, children under twelve, women who are menstruating and those who are unwell or very elderly are exempt. If they are able to they can make up their fast at a later date, or give to the poor.
During Ramadan everyone in Dubai has to respect the rules during daylight hours. Ramadan is expected this year on Monday the 6th of June until Thursday the 7th of July, although the official date will be announced by the UAE moon-sighting committee.
Things to avoid during Ramadan
If you are living in Dubai during Ramadan, there are some things you need to be aware of. Imagine you are fasting and resisting life’s temptations, and then someone who isn’t fasting eats or drinks right in front of you. Those who aren’t fasting should be respectful of those who are fasting during Ramadan. Here are some things you should avoid doing:
● Avoid eating, drinking, smoking and public displays of affection during daylight hours in public if you don’t want to annoy or anger the locals, or worse, get in trouble with the police because these things are illegal.
● If you want to have a drink, you will need to wait until 7pm when bars and restaurants open to serve drinks.
● You will find that the majority of restaurants and cafes are closed during the day until sunset, although supermarkets remain open. There may be some restaurants open specifically for those who are not fasting.
● Loud music is also not allowed during Ramadan aside from traditional music. No festivals take place during Ramadan, night clubs are closed and pubs don’t play music. So it’s probably best to avoid driving around in your car with your music really loud, or having a party with loud music.
● The traffic during Ramadan can get quite busy particularly between 3 and 7 when people are rushing home to break their fast, so you may want to avoid the busiest parts of the city at these times.
What to wear during Ramadan
Dubai has a modest dress code anyway, but during Ramadan it’s especially important to dress appropriately. Men and women are expected to cover up by keeping knees, shoulders and cleavage covered. It’s probably a good idea to refrain from wearing particularly tight or even remotely revealing clothes during the month of Ramadan, and throughout the year. You can wear swimwear if you are at a hotel or private pool and on some beaches.
How to get involved
If you are fascinated by Ramadan there are several ways to get involved and immerse yourself in the culture. If someone offers you an invitation to an Iftar, then try and accept as it is seen as rude to decline, and it’s a lovely experience. Just remember to bring a box of dates with you as a gift.
During Ramadan the locals have a special greeting for Ramadan salutation called ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’. Try and greet people with these phrases and you will be warmly received. You can also get involved by being charitable and attending a fundraising event. Attending a mosque is another way to learn more about Ramadan, some of the mosques such as the Jumeirah Mosque offer mosque tours.