This weekend marks the commencement of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Here in the United Arab Emirates, Muslims are celebrating the Holy Month by fasting from sunrise to sunset.
But Ramadan is so much more than fasting for 30 days. It is also a time for mental cleansing, where Muslims pray for forgiveness of their sins, and they carry out good deeds, such as donating food and money to the less fortunate here in this country and around the World.
If you are not a Muslim, it is of course entirely up to you, if you want to try fasting or performing charity work during Ramadan – but it is highly appreciated that we show respect by participating in the activities of this most important time of year for the Muslims.
As a resident, I definitely feel the city slows down during Ramadan. The rhythm is different, because the Muslims are up before sunrise to pray and eat their “suhoor”, after which many of them return to sleep, so the fasting doesn’t become so tiresome. Right at sunset, the traffic is always crazy, as Muslims hurry out to break their fast and celebrate until late in the evening.
Schools, workplaces and offices operate with shorter opening hours during Ramadan, in honor of the fasting community. As expats or foreigners of non-Muslim backgrounds, we are encouraged to wear decent clothing during Ramadan; to abstain from drinking and eating in public; to avoid chewing gum and listening to loud music in our cars or head phones.
It is fair to say, that we all try to follow the old saying of “When in Rome, do as the Romans”, during Ramadan, as we strive to be mindful of the rites and traditions of the Holy Month.
All restaurants, bars and cafes are closed until sunset, unless they apply for a special licence to operate during Ramadan – and then they will serve food and drinks either as “take away” or in an enclosed, discrete environment, where the fasting population is not offended by those, who happily eat and drink to their heart’s content.
There are limitations in terms of alcohol and noise from music and bars, but the large tourist hubs and hotels continue to serve alcohol during the day and evening – perhaps with a few amendments to the menu or the music performances, but you will be able to obtain this kind of information prior to your visit.
After reading all of the above, it might seem like Ramadan is the worst time possible to visit Dubai.
But I disagree.
More than anything else, Ramadan reminds me of 30 days of pure Christmas spirit. Everywhere you go, there is beautifully decorated with lanterns, lights and half moons. You can sense the joyful ambience amongst the locals – and you will find excellent deals and bargains in stores, so shopping is an ideal thing to do. Evening meals in every restaurant are turned into delectable “iftar”-buffets, offering the most lavish and delicious Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine during the whole month.
If you are fortunate enough to visit Dubai over the Holy Month, I really recommend that you sign up for an “iftar”-dinner with an evening visit to a nearby mosque at the “Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding”, as it is an authentic and interesting experience: http://cultures.ae
The best tips for a wonderful Ramadan in Dubai are found right here: http://www.timeoutdubai.com