Ramadan in Dubai: Things to do and not to do during the holy month

Ramadan Kareem! Ramadan starts in a day or two. It's important for expats like me to also understand what this holy month is about - beyond just the fasting. And it is as important to be aware of what should and should not be done during this time - as a sign of respect. Our Muslim brothers and sisters fast from sunrise to sunset. They do not eat or drink anything. They do not smoke. They do not have sex during daylight.

Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramadan is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of God or Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

What to expect from the city during Ramadan?

  • Non-Muslims are not exempted to eat and drink in public; (chewing gums not exempted too).
  • Restaurants are closed. Although some fastfood outlets are open for take-aways for Non-Muslims, but the seats and tables are folded up because we cannot eat out - not even on our cars. We can call for deliveries though. 
  • Some groceries are open (some of them only from after midday prayers). 
  • Some shops open later than usual - since people are fasting, they would need more time to rest
  • Licensed bars, clubs and hotels don't serve alcoholic beverages
  • There's no partying too - since there is a ban to play 'loud' music - so can still go to a bar - order your highland legumes, and groove in silence.

After sunset, everything comes to life. Try to attend Iftar if you can. Iftar is the meal taken to break the fast during Ramadan. Iftar is commonly done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. You could try to attend to one - you can find a lot of enticing Iftar buffets in the hotels.

What happens if I accidentally eat or drink out?

There are "rumors" that violators (those who caught eating or drinking during the daytime of Ramadan) is punished by up to 240 hours of community service. It is considered a minor offense and not a crime actually.

When does Ramadan ends?  (source: Wikipedia)

The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast; a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-fitr); everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes; and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two Raka'ahs only, and it is optional (mustahabb) prayer as opposed to the compulsory five daily prayers. Muslims are expected to do this as an act of worship, and to thank God.

Two or three days before Ramadan ends, everyone will be busy preparing for Eid. Shoppers stay overtime at malls and groceries - to buy foods for the celebration and gifts too. Eid ul-Fitr is like Christmas - gift giving, a time for new things. Public offices and many private companies close for several days during this time.

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