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How to Behave During Ramadan in Dubai
Understanding RamadanBeing RespectfulExperiencing the CultureQuestions & AnswersRelated Articles
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Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year. It is traditionally a time of fasting, prayer, and reflection. Ramadan is unique in Dubai because it is such a fast-moving city: in recent years, the age-old religious traditions have begun to mix with the values of a more modern world. If you're visiting Dubai during Ramadan, you'll need to understand and respect this heritage. When in doubt, follow the lead of the locals.
Respect Ramadan. Regardless of your belief system, understand why this tradition is so important to devout Muslims. If you're visiting Dubai, try to honor the culture. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and it is a sacred time for Muslims throughout the world. Indeed, it is the Fourth Pillar of The Muslim Faith: most Muslims believe that the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan. Thus, this holy month marks the beginning of revelations from God.
2Know when Ramadan starts. Ramadan is always the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, but it varies from year to year on the (Western) Gregorian calendar. This is because the Islamic calendar is lunar (in tune with the moon), while the western calendar is solar (with the sun). Find out the first day of Ramadan by running a simple web search: for instance, "Ramadan 2020".
- Note that in the Muslim calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day. Thus, if Ramadan falls on the 6th of June, devout believers will begin to observe the month after sundown on the 5th.
- With each passing year, Ramadan cycles 10-11 days earlier on the Western calendar. For instance, in 2013, Ramadan began on July 9th; in 2014, it began on June 29th; in 2015, on June 18th.
3Watch how devout believers behave. Ramadan is a holy month, and practicing Muslims are must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, or having sex between dawn and dusk of each day. Many believers take this time as an opportunity to give up bad habits. Some people try to deepen their faith by praying more or reading the Qur'an. The general mood is one of abstinence, penance, and clarity.
- As a visitor, you do not need to fast or to show any religious fervor. It is enough to respect and appreciate the culture. Above all, be considerate of Muslims during this time, and do not tempt those who are practicing any sort of abstinence.
Be aware of other important dates in the Islamic calendar. Islam is the primary religion in Dubai, although other religions are allowed. Islamic religious holidays are a big deal in the United Arab Emirates, so it may help to know what else to expect. Important dates in the Islamic calendar include: the Prophet’s ascension (Al Isr’a Wal Mairaj), the Prophet’s birthday (Mawlid Al-Nabi), the start of Ramadan, and the two "Eid" (festival) holidays: Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
1Dress modestly. Both men and women are expected to dress with an appropriate level of discretion during the month of Ramadan. Show as little skin as possible, within reason. Cover your knees and shoulders, wear only modest makeup, and do not wear revealing necklines. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
- If you are female, consider covering your head with a scarf or pashmina. The stated purpose of this garb is to reduce the risk of temptation.
- It is most important to dress modestly if you enter a mosque or another sacred space. This holds true even when Ramadan is not in effect.
2Be considerate of practicing Muslims. People will be abstaining from all food and water from dawn to dusk each day, and they will be actively trying to resist worldly temptations. If someone is trying to abstain from a certain habit or practice, avoid doing that thing in front of them. At best, you will offend the locals – and at worst, you may find yourself in trouble with the police. Be modest and respectful, and do your best to keep the peace.
- Do not play loud music; in general, do not make a lot of noise in public spaces. Do not swear in public. Ramadan is a time for prayer and spiritual reflection, and loud or vulgar noises may disturb this peace.
- Fasting can wreak havoc upon a person's eating and sleeping habits, so some locals might be "hangry" or more irritable than usual. Understand that this is part of the experience. Try to be patient with everyone that you meet.
Be charitable. Charity is a huge part of the ethos of Ramadan, and giving money to a good cause can be a great way to get into the holiday spirit. If you want to help an organization, look into the various volunteering and donating options in Dubai. On a simpler level, consider tipping service workers extra.
4Understand how business hours shift during Ramadan. The working hours are two hours shorter than usual during this month. In order to handle their hunger, people tend to stay up very late at night, then nap in the afternoon. All public restaurants and coffee shops are closed from dawn to sunset. Bars, clubs, and live music venues typically close down, so you may need to find another way to keep yourself busy.
- Be careful on the streets. The roads will be busier, especially when the fast breaks at sundown and people are going out to dinner. Drivers are generally more tired, and the rate of UAE traffic accidents increases dramatically during Ramadan.
- Do not worry about finding food. Restaurants at hotels, airports, and other traveler-specific spaces tend to remain open during the day, and food and drinks are freely served in those areas.
Don't eat or smoke in public places. Smoking is prohibited in almost all public areas during the month of Ramadan, and you may even draw attention if you smoke in private spaces. Most importantly, do not smoke around practicing Muslims, some of whom might be trying to abstain from cigarettes for the month. Eating and drinking in front of fasting Muslims is not illegal, but it is usually considered disrespectful.
3Experiencing the Culture
Consider the unique way that Dubai celebrates Ramadan. This city is one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the world, and its people are adopting western customs at an rapid pace. During Ramadan, however, Dubai swirls into a colorful mix of religious tradition and modern culture. Bars and nightclubs close down; public concerts are banned; and the city comes alive inside traditional Iftar tents (majlis and jaimas) that spring up all throughout the streets.
2Enjoy Iftar meals. Each evening, the people of Dubai gather at Iftar celebrations in traditional Arabian tents. These majili and jaima tents feature fine Persian rugs, colorful cushions, and a rich array of food and drink. Once the daily fast ends at sundown, people come around to socialize, share food, smoke shisha, and play games. These celebrations may be held privately, in a home, or publicly, at a restaurant. In the UAE, large tents in the streets or near mosques hand out free meals to those in need.
- If you don't know any locals, take your friends or family to a hotel-based Iftar tent in the evening. Drink mint tea, coffee, and Arabic delicacies as you play games, relax, and absorb the culture. This can be a great way to experience Ramadan.
- If you are invited to an Iftar dinner, do not pass up the opportunity! It is considered rude to come empty-handed, so bring a box of dates or another simple Arabic dessert as a gesture of good faith to your host.
Give Ramadan greetings. Tap into the community spirit. Greet Muslims with the phrase "Ramadan Kareem," which means "Generous Ramadan." At the end of Ramadan, during the three-day Eid celebrations, greet people with "Eid Mubarak." (eye-eed moo-bah-rock). Think of these phrases as something akin to "Happy Holidays." Everyone uses these greetings during the month of Ramadan, so you may actually stand out more if you don't use them!
4Go shopping. Practicing Muslims refrain from excessive spending during the days of fast, but they flock to malls and shops after sundown. Indeed, the shopping nights of Ramadan have been compared to the way that U.S. stores burst with activity in the days leading up to Christmas; malls are often open and bustling until well past midnight. Business owners typically entice post-fast spending with a host of deals and promotions. These promotions may extend beyond retail stores and restaurants to realms like flight booking, hotel reservation, and short-stay apartment reservation – which may make it easier for you to plan and finance your stay.
- Consider buying a house or signing a lease during Ramadan. This month is a very special period for people in the region, and the burgeoning economy means that skyrocketing housing prices are one of the biggest issues facing the public in Dubai today. Anyone who purchases property or signs a lease during Ramadan can pay the current rent for a full year without worrying about rising rates.
Let loose during the three-day "Eid" celebrations after Ramadan. Ramadan is typically a somber and holy time; indeed, it is essentially a month-long spiritual fast. The breaking of a fast, however, is cause for celebration. The three days that follow Ramadan are much more exciting: celebrations and partying are the order of the day in Dubai, and the city comes alive with wild festivity. As with the month itself, it is best to "go with the flow" and follow the lead of the locals. Once everyone starts to party, you can loosen up and have a good time.
Can I wear shorts or mini-skirts after the Ramadan day or after IftaR?
In Islam, "Western" clothing is never an option, and that includes short and mini-skirts. Wear long skirts that cover your leg shape.
If I travel from India during Ramadam, will I be able to eat or drink in public places?
Never eat, drink or smoke in a public place during daylight hours, including your office pantry. This is also applicable when you are traveling in your own car or on a private bus. Avoid chewing gum in a public place, as it could be seen as eating. Children are exempt from fasting so this does not apply to them.
Do Muslims drink alcohol at any time?
There are Muslims who drink; however, it is not permissible in Islam.
Would I be able to drink while on the beach or sitting at the pool?
You can't eat or drink before maghrib anywhere, except for people travelling, sick people, and old people who cannot fast.
If we want to drink water out in the open, is it okay there?
It is not prohibited, but it is just discouraged as it will make it hard for the others (who are fasting) to stay away from water. So if you don't drink water in public, that would be an act of kindness from your side.
Can I wear translucent stockings?
No, I don't believe those would be appropriate for Ramadan.
Can I wear a backless top with an overlay net during Ramadan in Dubai?
You'd probably get a lot of dirty looks due to offending people, so I'd recommend not doing so.
Can I eat/drink on a private balcony that is overlooked by other apartments?
If the fast has been broken after sunset, then it is fully permissible. However, it is respectful to locals observing the fast (sawm) to not eat in public because it makes their fast feel more difficult.
Can I wear a midi dress (knee length) with a split up to the knee level in Dubai during Ramadan?
I'd say no. You may offend Muslims observing the holiday.
Can I drink and smoke in my hotel room?
No. Drinking alcohol is Haram to begin with, and it's a lot worse if you're doing it during Ramadan.
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