Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان) is an Islamic religious observance that generally falls during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the “Five Pillars of Islam” (the others being: 1. To testify that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is the Messenger of God; 2. To pray 5 times a day; 3 To pay alms; and 4. To perform Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) for those who can afford it physically and financially.
During Ramadan, observant Muslims not only abstain from food, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk, but in general practice restraint from all activities or behavior that are not compatible with Islamic values. Muslims are instructed to behave more patiently and tolerantly than usual and more time is spent on religious instruction and reflection. Throughout Ramadan, there is an emphasis on communal values: People will invite guests to join them for breaking the fast (iftar). You will find many Iftar tents around the UAE, both private and commercial, as well as many of the restaurants throughout the UAE, were people meet to break the fast together.
After Ramdan, (Eid al-Fitr) is one of the most important festivals in Muslim cultures: children are bought new clothes and people travel to visit friends and relatives.
Ramadan also has implications for non-Muslims in the UAE. You should show respect to those who are fasting and pay attention so as not to offend Islamic values.
You should note the following:
- Do not eat, drink or smoke in public view during the daytime (including in your car). This is considered highly disrespectful. Pregnant, nursing women, and young children are exempt from the provisions, but discretion should be exercised.
- Take extra care about your clothing during the holy month. Skimpy clothes should not be worn at any time in the UAE, but during Ramadan the standards may be policed even more carefully than usual.
- The majority of eating and drinking establishments will be closed during daylight hours, but you can find some coffee houses that are screened from public view.
- Driving may be more erratic than usual, particularly during the later afternoon and early evening, be patient and show tolerance especially during this time.
- Loud music and dancing is considered disrespectful during Ramadan. Please do not play music or dance in public areas.
Respect the local laws and traditions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure they do not offend others’ cultures and religious beliefs.