As many non-Muslim expats, I don’t know quite anything about Ramadan, except for disquieting rumors.
After googling, inquiring people from at least ten different nationalities and religions with my weird questions, browsing books and newspapers, I decided to collect first-hand information.
First hot topic we all are more worried about: etiquette required to non- Muslim expats during Ramadan. Do I really have to lock myself at home? And am I really not allowed to use Internet??
Let me ask a local expert…
Ramadan in Abu Dhabi: the key answer
I was so lucky to find a workshop about Ramadan etiquette.
Great initiative, because I didn’t have to bother Emirati people in the middle of the street under 45 degrees asking embarrassing questions.
Great initiative, especially because I think I got the main picture about Ramadan, and I hope the main frame as well, to answer to my questions.
The main picture I got: Ramadan for Muslims is not just “the fasting time” but should be more similar to an intensive training session, like in a gym.
The difference is, of course, that the aim of this training is not to improve the muscle mass but, as much as possible, to improve as human being.
And globally and worldwide this is a praiseworthy effort that deserves respect.
Fasting, and in general the abstinence not only from smoking and sex but also from negative behaviors, are considered important exercises of this training, as in many religions is.
So, like in a gym you don’t go to bother people training, and you don’t organize a party in a hospital, similarly you wouldn’t “disturb” this community training session. And this can be the frame.
The first natural consequence is that even non-Muslims expats, are required to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking in public or in the presence of a Muslim, to dress modestly, and, in general, to act in a way to respect this “intensive session”. Even being a bit more patient and understanding.
Ramadan etiquette at work
Working hours during Ramadan can vary especially during the morning.
Eid al Fitr, the celebration after the end of Ramadan, is a public holiday and usually lasts after 3 days.
Consider that a vacation period is usually taken a week before the ending of Ramadan till the end of Eid al Fitr.
If you work with Muslim colleagues, it’s nice to wish Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak.
Of course, during Ramadan avoid organizing meetings extending after 5 p.m., or which include lunch, department parties and social events.
During Ramadan days, usually in Abu Dhabi shops may open between 10 a.m and 12 a.m., and are close in the afternoon.
Then shops open from 8:00 p.m. till midnight. In this time hours, and sometimes until the first hours in the morning, traffic in Abu Dhabi can be very heavy, and finding a taxi can’t be so easy.
Also, a week before the end of Ramadan, travelling to or from Muslim countries can be very hard in the entire Gulf Region, with traffic jam on the roads and congestion of flights, as people take vacations.
- Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, based on the lunar phases.
- According to the lunar calendar, expected dates for Ramadan 2013 will be from July 10th until August 7th.
- Ramadan month lasts 29–30 days, according to the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
- The word “ramadan” means “dryness” or “scorching heat”.
- Ramadan is the Holy Month, for meditation and “self-improvement”: this is why Muslims are required to refrain from food and from drinking, from down till dusk, from smoking and from intimacies. Plus, during Ramadan Muslims try to avoid negative behaviors and actions, such as slander or lying, that can annul the “exercise” of abstinence,
- Fasting (Siyam, one of the five pillars of Islam) is considered a way to exercise values such as self-discipline, endurance, tolerance and patience.
- Elderly, sick, menstruating or pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, children under the age of puberty, and travellers are not required to fast.
- Each day of Ramadan month, at sunset, the fast is broken with the Iftar, a light meal usually consisting in water and dates, followed by a meal, shared with family and friends.
- Ramadan is also for Muslims the month for empathy and charity (Zakat, which means charity, is another pillar of Islam). Before the end of Ramadan, Muslims have to pay the Zakat al Fitr offering a meal or the equivalent amount of money to people in need.
- Ramadan ends with the new moon and it is celebrated with the Eid al Fitr, the “festival of breaking the fast” which lasts after three days. Eid al Fitr is a community celebration for praying, donating children, exchange visits with relatives and friends.
The workshop I attended was offered by Eton Institute Abu Dhabi in cooperation with “Open Doors. Open Minds – Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding”, a non profit organization, based in Dubai aimed to “raise awareness of the local culture, customs and religion of the United Arab Emirates” by events like heritage tours, cultural meals or educational seminars and workshops.
If you are interested to know more about Ramadan or be involved in a cultural Iftar:
Open Doors. Open Minds. Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding