Ramadan in the UAE – A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re living in the UAE, Ramadan’s just a way of life. Every year, working hours get shorter, restaurants close in the middle of the day, and long abayas and thobes become the fashion for a month at a time. But do you know exactly what Ramadan is and why Ramadan doesn’t fall on the same day each year? Read on to learn more.

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By Ashraf Vachhiat

April 07, 2022

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When is Ramadan in the UAE?

Because the Islamic year is based on a lunar calendar, Ramadan does not fall on the same day of the Gregorian calendar every year. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is confirmed by the sighting of the crescent moon by the naked eye; this is usually confirmed by the Islamic Authorities in each country. This year, Ramadan started on the evening of Friday 1st April, and will likely end on Sunday 1st May, although this is also subject to the moon being sighted.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic year & is marked by a required fasting. All Muslims who are physically capable are required to abstain from food, drink & smoking from the first light of dawn, until sunset; children, the elderly, the ill, and pregnant women are exempted from fasting.

For those who aren’t too familiar with the particulars of Ramadan, it is not in fact only about not eating or drinking all day. Ramadan is also time for a ‘spiritual detox’ of sorts.

Ramadan preaches love, peace & forgiveness in all its forms. You are meant to abstain from using foul language, gossiping, anger, lust and any ill will towards people. You are also meant to increase charitable actions and spend time on more spiritually rewarding activities. This includes reading more of the Quran, performing more intentional prayers & spending time with family, friends & neighbours.

Abstaining from food & drink may in fact be the easiest part of Ramadan. The Holy Month is meant to motivate people to break bad habits & build better ones in their place.

What is Iftar?

Iftar is the name given to the meal eaten at sunset that breaks the fast. Muslims tend to break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did; with water & a few dates. After that, people will sit down to a feast with family, friends, neighbours and/or colleagues. Besides the dates, there are no traditionally ‘Muslim’ dishes served at Iftar time, rather each country has its own set of traditional Ramadan menu staples.

There are many Ramadan tents in Dubai that serve up extravagant Iftar buffets & dishes that are definitely worth checking out at least once. Here’s a ‘short’ list of some places to try.

Changes you might see in Dubai

The biggest change that will affect those not observing Ramadan are the laws regarding eating, drinking & smoking in public. All these things are not allowed during Ramadan. While many restaurants will be open during the fasting hours, there may be a take away only policy or a curtain/barrier shielding diners from public view. There are strict penalties for violating these laws that may include jail time, so do be considerate & respectful.

Another area to be considerate & respectful in is clothing. Do be aware of what you are wearing while out in public during Ramadan in the UAE. It is expected that everyone is dressed a little more conservatively than other times of the year. This means shoulders covered, clothes down to the knees & where possible loose-fitting clothing; and yes, this applies to both men & women.

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Working hours in the UAE are shorter during Ramadan; to account for the physical/mental effects of fasting & to give people more time in the day to engage with the spiritual activities of Ramadan. That means that most companies will be closing their offices 2 hours earlier than they usually do (our office will remain open throughout its regular hours from 8:30am to 5:30pm).

All government offices will be closed by either 1pm or 2pm. That means that all attestations needed here in the UAE will take a little longer than usual. So do bear that in mind when submitting documents for attestation.

When is Eid?

The celebration that marks the end of Ramadan is called Eid-ul-Fitr and is celebrated by Muslims across the world by wearing new clothes, gathering with family, giving alms & giving gifts. It is celebrated for 3 days and is an official holiday in the UAE.

Not only are all companies & government departments closed for Eid, as are the UAE Embassies around the world. So again, if you do need documents to be attested for the UAE, it is highly recommended that documents be submitted as early as possible before the Eid holidays. There are delays of at least 5 days expected over the Eid holidays here and around the world.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

Ramadan isn’t only a time for abstaining from food and water for Muslims, it also acts a kind of ‘spiritual detox’, to help a person reflect on their behaviours, and drop detrimental habits for better ones. If you’re in Dubai, or any Muslim country, you might be expected to dress a little bit more modestly than usual. 

If you would like more information on how the upcoming Holy Month & Eid holidays may affect the services we provide, do get in touch with us here or call us on +971 (0)4 871 6718.

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Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist for the Vital group, and has worked at the company for over 7 years. As well as working on all the technical complexities that make this blog come to life, he has built an intricate knowledge of the processes required for relocating to the UAE.

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