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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.