What to do and what not do during Ramadan

Published:  7 May at 6 PM
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The Moslem Holy Month of Ramadan can be a cultural challenge for expats, especially for those who’ve only just arrived in the Gulf States.

For everyone, the Holy Month is a time for family, community and peace, although many expats who feel they can’t cope take time off and leave for the duration of the month. For those who stay and don’t want to cause offence by doing or saying the wrong thing, the do’s and don’t are straightforward and easy to get right. Deciding to join in the community spirit and catching up with Moslem friends will deliver a unique experience both at work and in the evening.

Starting with wishing all your Moslem friends, colleagues and neighbours a blessed Ramadan, then joining in with the many volunteering and charitable activities is a good start. One important thing to remember is that drivers who’re fasting and others who’re rushing back home for iftar may not be paying 100 per cent attention to other road traffic. When you’re offered food during iftar, it’s a sign of friendliness and respect and should be accepted. In the office, work colleagues who’re fasting might be tired as a result, making work-related issues a little less productive, but staying calm, showing patience and going with the flow is the answer.

Office hours may well change, with rush hours on the roads starting and ending earlier, and heavy traffic on the roads between 8 p.m. and midnight as people head for home after iftar. Becoming a night owl during Ramadan is the best idea, with the city coming alive in a very special way once the sun sets. If you’ve been invited for iftar by friends, remember to bring gifts including dates. For the real Ramadan experience, try fasting yourself, if only just for one day, as it’ll give you an idea of what your colleagues and friends are going through.

As regards the don’ts, most are common sense, starting with forgetting about happy hour for a month. The majority of Dubai’s bars and clubs close for the month, with the few still open only serving alcohol after sunset. Playing loud music is considered inappropriate, and dressing in a way considered disrespectful is also frowned on. Getting into public arguments, disagreements or even fights is a major no-no during Ramadan, as it’s all about serenity and peace. Also, kissing and hugging in the Western way is frowned upon, as is refusing an invitation to iftar. Lastly, don’t worry about all these ruies, as you’ll soon get used to the Ramadan vibe and learn to value or at the least respect Ramadan for its culture, serenity and peacefulness.
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