Ramadan rules for expats in Saudi

Published:  12 May at 6 PM
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Tagged: Visas, Australia
Newly arrived expats in Gulf State countries are often concerned about how to deal with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the workplace, but following basic rules will ensure the faithful aren’t offended.

Saudi Arabia is known for its stricter approach to Muslim laws, but is an attractive destination for expat professionals. As the annual holy month of Ramadan approaches, it’s advisable to adjust your behaviour to fit in with your Muslim colleagues. During the month there’s a small shift on business practices and a noticeable slowdown in getting things done, perhaps due to the all-day fasting taking place across the Kingdom.

For first-time expats, it might seem confusing that Ramadan’s total concentration on prayers, being charitable, and fasting also includes celebrations and connecting with friends and family members, no matter how distant. For businesses, it’s a time to connect with their clients as a demonstration of community and belonging. The working day is reduced to six hours or 36 hours per week, with the aim of accommodating all those who decide to undertake the daytime fast.

For expats, dressing modestly during the whole month is a must, and exchanging the traditional greeting, ‘Ramadam Kareem’, will be appreciated. Traffic tends to be much heavier during the holy month, especially during the half-hour before the sun sets and fasting is no longer required. Breaking the fast with friends and families is a joyous celebration, with restaurants crammed with hungry, happy people. Some expat non-Muslims do observe the sunrise to sunset fast, with many saying it’s good for their health as well as for their status in the community.

Definite don’ts for expats include eating and drinking in public during the hours of the fast, as this is considered disrespectful. Smoking in public places is disallowed until after sunset, and in Saudi itself very few places will allow smoking during the holy month. Obviously, public shows of affection are even more discouraged during Ramadan than they are during the rest of the year, and playing loud music which could disturb those at prayer is also considered disrespectful to practicing Muslims.
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