Expat or local, the Holy Month of Ramadan is a special time for all…
However it is also a time where we should be more considerate about the culture we live in.
To make sure you don’t offend anyone, here’s a handy guide of 20 cultural dos and don’ts for Ramadan – helping you prepare for the next four weeks.
1. DO embrace the community spirit and wish a blessed Ramadan to Muslim friends and colleagues. Introduce yourself to your neighbours, get involved in an Iftar and catch up with friends and family.
2. DON’T eat, drink or smoke in public during the hours of daylight, even if you’re not Muslim. Best case scenario you’re just being rude, worse case scenario you may find yourself arrested and fined.
3. DO put your money where your mouth is and get involved in the wide range of charitable and volunteering organisations around the UAE.
4. DON’T run away. Many expats leave Dubai during Ramadan because yes, it’s summer and yes, it’s hot… but this is one of the most vibrant times to be in the UAE so why not immerse yourself in the culture in which you live?
5. DO be very careful on the roads as fasting drivers and people rushing home for Iftar tend to mean an increase in car accidents during Ramadan.
6. DO accept food and drink when offered during Iftar, it is a sign of respect and friendliness.
7. DO stay calm. Work might be a less little productive and people who are fasting might be a little more tired, but be patient with everyone this month.
8. DON’T play loud music as it may offend those who are fasting. Playing music through your headphones is allowed as long as it is not audible to the people around you.
9. DON’T dress inappropriately or wear tight fitting clothes – modesty is key.
10. DON’T leave dinner reservations until the last minute – restaurants across Dubai will become a lot busier as families and friends meet to break their fasts together.
11. DO remember that your office hours are likely to change, whether you’re Muslim or not. With that means the rush hours will occur at different times – expect an earlier morning rush hour from 7am to 9am and a much earlier ‘evening’ rush hour as people leave work at 3pm to 4pm. There may also be traffic from 8pm to midnight as people go home after Iftar.
12. DON’T count on happy hour. Most bars and clubs in Dubai will be closed during the month of Ramadan and those that will remain open will only serve alcohol once the sun has set. Remember that while public intoxication isn’t allowed in Dubai under normal circumstances, during Ramadan it is particularly risky.
13. DO become a night owl. The city will be so much more alive and thriving once the sun has set so adjust your body clock if you want to take advance of everything happening during the month.
14. DON’T get into debates, arguments or fights during Ramadan. It is the month of peace and serenity. Swearing in public is particularly offensive during Ramadan.
15. DO bring dates and gifts for your host if invited for Iftar by your Muslim friends.
16. DON’T kiss or hug your partner or friends of the opposite sex in public. While this is a rule to bear in mind throughout the rest of the year, demonstrative acts of affection with members of the opposite sex will cause particular offence during Ramadan.
17. DO embrace the culture. Take your family to one of the many hotel-based Iftar tents, play a set of backgammon or bring a deck of Uno cards, enjoy the Moroccan mint tea and Arabic delicacies and enjoy the fact that you live in the Middle East.
18. DON’T refuse an Iftar when invited (if possible). In fact why not organise your own Iftar for your friends?
19. DO try fasting for a day. It’s a good way to understand your own needs and self-control as well as a way to understand what your Muslim friends and colleagues are going through this month.
20. DON’T worry if all these rules feel like a lot. Ramadan is a peaceful and serene time that only lasts a month so try and enjoy it while it’s here.
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Words: Jennifer McNeill
Image: Bloomingdale’s Middle East Ramadan Collection featuring Anatomi, Huishan Zhang and Sharira