I have started writing this post exactly month ago and never finished it…oh I will never learn:) But here I am- it’s 13th day of Ramadan already and I wanted to write few words about what is Ramadan in UAE. So let me, would you?
Remember coming to Dubai for the first time just before the Ramadan. Of course I knew what it is and what it means for Muslim around the world, as I was living in UK previously, but coming to a Muslim country was a totally new experience for me. I didn’t know what to expect at first, what do I do? What is happening then? and so on….
So my first observation was that life slows down completely during that month. No one is basically recruiting, majority of expats decide to go home and working hours are shorter ( from 8 to 6 hours for ALL employees, regardless if you fast or not). I started working at the end of Ramadan, and at first I didn’t know how to behave in front of the colleagues who fast, but I quickly learned that they didn’t really mind that. We ( non fasting ones) tried to be simply respectful as it’s not easy to fast 15hr or so. Shops were mostly closed during the daytime so does restaurants, although many had a “secret” separate areas for those that do not fast so it wasn’t much of a problem if you wanted to grab a lunch or so.
Basic Ramadan etiquette
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke in public during the fasting hours. This includes chewing gum.
- Do not engage in public displays of affection, like hugging or kissing.
- Do not engage in any aggressive behaviour.
- Do not dance or play music in public. You may listen to music quietly with headphones.
- Do not wear inappropriate clothing in public. Dress respectfully. Men should avoid wearing sleeveless tops, while women should cover their shoulders and knees.
- Do not swear.
- Accept gifts, from a simple date to something more exotic, try to politely accept it. Further, if invited, it would always be an honour to join someone at Iftar.
- The penalty for not following the above etiquette can vary, with community service normally being favoured.
More or less- these are the basics…..
The rush begin at around Iftar time. People heading for Iftar dinners would very often show their raising impatience on the roads, especially during the first week of Ramadan it has become a norm, that there is a slight increase in road accidents during these first few days.
Very often people meet up for Iftar buffets ( restaurants, cafes, tents) in larger groups regardless of whether they are Muslim or not. Bringing small gifts for each other and celebrating that month together. There is something very special in that, it’s not only about the food and hanging out, but simply to be together.
Ramadan is time in UAE, where people engage in many charities and activities that support those less fortunate here as well as outside the country. One of the initiatives that I admire very much and get involved is Ramadan Fridges. It doesn’t take a lot- and it can bring so much joy in to so many lives. I know Dubai is considered one of the most luxurious cities in the world, but believe me- there many in need here as well.
Fasting- why do Muslim fast? Ramadan is this one month of the year, when you should get closer to God, re-think your life, stop running after material things of this world and think what really matters to you… And fasting is a way of doing it. From dawn to dusk, no water & no food. Trying to give up your bad habits, be a better men. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting.
Do I fast? Yes- I tried last year and I did fast few days (only) as it was too difficult for me that I couldn’t bear it longer. This year I did some research beforehand and prepared myself better, though its my 2nd week now ( ( except period- you don’t fast then). The first few days are the worse in terms of the fatigue and headaches ( especially when you are a heavy coffee drinker) but later on your body is adjusting. It is actually scientifically proven that fasting is good for your health and I must say- I feel really great. Because I am fasting, I don’t drink coffee- only green tea, I drink more water, eat more fruits and veggies and cook soups ( before I didn’t cook soup for almost 2 years). I truly applaud the concept of Ramadan, not mentioning that it does not differ that much from Christian Lent ( which many people does not realize).
I was afraid when approaching my first Ramadan here and I was really amazed what it really is for Muslim but also for all the people living in UAE. It’s all about getting together as people, taking what is best from our religions and cultures and doing great things together, respecting each others values and simply have that knowledge. As they say “You are afraid of something very often because you don’t know it”.
I hope I wasn’t rumbling too much:) If you have questions- please do ask:)
Wish you all a good week:)