Do’s and Dont’s when celebrating Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates
Ramadan is one of the major events in Islamic culture as this is a holy month celebrated by Muslims all around the world. As an expat in the UAE, you should be aware on how to behave during this season, not only because strict rules are implemented, but to also show respect to our Muslim brothers and sisters who are fasting. Here we share some tips in making sure that we understand the do’s and don’ts when this season comes.
Ramadan is the time when Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Muslims neither eat nor drink from sunrise until sunset and avoid unclean thoughts and bad conduct altogether. Muslims then break the fast everyday after sunset. The purpose Ramadan and the practice of fasting is a way to purify the spirit of the person as well as feeling empathy for the less fortunate , this teaches appreciation and humility , which is a great stepping stone to being one with Allah, their God.
Do’s and Dont’s During Ramadan Season in the UAE
There are some do’s and don’ts in celebrating Ramadan in the UAE to help you prepare and prevent any unintentional violations that may occur. Tips and suggestions are as follows:
- Introduce yourself to your Muslim friends and neighbors and wish them a happy Ramadan filled with prosperity and enlightenment. Join in the ‘Iftar’,which is the first meal of the day at pre-dawn.
- Do charitable works in the UAE as this makes the holy month more memorable.
- Be mindful in roads as people tend to rush home for Iftar which can lead to accidents.
- Accept any food or drink offered by other people during Iftar as this is a gesture of kindness, friendliness and trust among Muslim brothers.
- People tend to be tired during Ramadan due to fasting, stay tranquil as you can relate to their situation too.
- Whether you are a Muslim or not, the rush hour change of time will definitely affect you in the UAE as people tend to go early to work from 7 am until 9 am and they will leave work from 3 pm to 4 pm , also expect traffic from 8 pm to 12 am because people leave after Iftar and ended at those times.
- Learn to stay-up at night as the city will be filled with life at night during Ramadan so you don’t miss out on anything.
- If invited to Iftar, bring some gifts and dates as dates are eaten during Iftar to break the fast.
- Assimilate to the culture as you might find it interesting.
- Enjoy everything as different experiences tends to make a person more compassionate and understanding to other cultures and traditions.
As a newbie expat in the United Arab Emirates, one of the things that you should be aware of in this Muslim country is that every year, the country celebrates a the holy month of Ramadan. It is customary that all Muslims fast during this month and as a foreigner living in the UAE, we need to abide by certain rules and regulations to also show respect to our brothers and sisters. Here are some tips on how to behave during Ramadan season.
Ramadan usually happens in between the months of June to July, but it the schedule depends on the sighting of the moon. If you are coming during this month to visit Dubai, please be guided accordingly as these rules were implemented by the government. While Dubai is an open city, we also need to follow proper guidelines or else we will be reprimanded.
Do’s and Dont’s Ramadan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
As an expat, you can visit Jumeirah Mosque, where tour guides can explain how important is Ramadan to Muslims for reflection, prayer, and cleanse themselves from the actions they committed, so you should respect the holy month.
You won’t feel bored though as Dubai never really shuts its doors in malls and outlets completely, you can visit many tourist attractions that will be quite empty like Burj Khalifa, you can still go to bars that will remain serve alcohol but ONLY after sunset, also liquor stores won’t be totally closed but they sell ONLY after sunset also.
What to Avoid in Ramadan
But even if Dubai is still open and tolerable to expats, let’s not abuse this. Here are some don’ts when spending the holy month here.
- You should avoid eating, drinking, smoking, and chew gum in public from sunrise to Iftar, the Muslim meal that break their daily fast at sunset, also restaurants will not be open during the day. You can eat and smoke in the privacy of your house. otherwise you can be fined or even put in jail.
- You should avoid wearing revealing clothes and try to be more conservative and cover your shoulders and legs to knee.
- You should avoid loud music in your car, beach or even at home. You can still listen to music but make sure it won’t be heard outside.
- Try to avoid driving before sunset because during this time the roads fil with people hasten to home to break the fast
- Try to avoid going to restaurants at Iftar time without reservation
Ramadan, is one of the months in the Islamic calendar, in which it was imposed on Muslims to fast. Ramadan is known as the month of generosity. People hastens to forgive each others and do many worships and charities, it is also a good chance to feel the inner peace of your soul and try to live the traditions of Arabs as an expat.
As an expat, we can try to take advantage of the spiritual benefits of Ramadan and relax. Also, many expats also utilize this month and join in the fasting period as they set various goals for themselves. If you have any experience with Ramadan share it with us.
Ramadan season in Dubai and the UAE is approaching. This is the month-long celebration where our Muslim brothers and sisters practice fasting. They abstain from eating during certain times of the day. This is also a time when working hours are reduced.
Given that the UAE is a Muslim country, as expats, we are advised to observe proper behavior during this month.
So when does Ramadan start? The Ramadan schedule this year is not yet final as it depends on the sighting of the moon. But experts believe it will begin from May 6 to June 5, 2019. We will update you with more information once we get the final verdict from the UAE Government on when the schedule of Ramadan is.
Guidelines & Tips
Dubai might be an Open City, but we still need to respect the religion and culture. Don’t eat in front of the people because you will be fined if you do. It is also disrespectful when you show that you’re eating when the rest of the population is fasting. Other than Not Eating, here are other Tips and Things to note during Ramadan season.
- No drinking of liquids. – If you drink/eat, make sure it’s in a private room.
- No food consumption until after Iftar or evening meal.
- No smoking in public.
- No cursing.
- Dress in a conservative manner.
- No engaging in sexual relations. – Mostly NO public displays of affection. Even touching the opposite sex can be considered disrespectful.
- No loud noises/music/karaoke nights.
Please be advised that this is strictly observed and anyone caught violating certain practices, will have corresponding sanctions. More than the fines and sanctions, let us learn to observe Ramadan as part of our social responsibility.
Things to Know about Ramadan
If this will be your first time to experience Ramadan in the UAE, then there are certain things that you should know. Here are some of the common greetings, events, and practices done during the Holy Month, as well as how you can get involved.
Greetings & Phrases
During this period, people greet each other using the following phrases (and their meanings):
Ramadan Kareem – Generous Ramadan
Ramadan Mubarak – Blessed Ramadan
Eid Mubarak – Blessed Eid
Iftar Shahy – Have a good Iftar
Suhoor & Iftar
“Suhoor” refers to the meal taken by Muslims just before sunrise, before fasting starts. In contrast, “Iftar” is the meal taken after sunset, when fasting ends. People eat apricots, dates, and drink juices before evening prayers. Afterwards, they share large meals with family, friends, and colleagues.
Giving to Charity
Giving to charity is an important part of Islam, especially during the Holy Month. Of course, you don’t have to be a Muslim to give to charity! You can donate to Ramadan camps, Iftar camps, care packages, and charity organisations.
Hag Al Layla
In the UAE, Hag Al Layla is celebrated on the the 14th day of Ramadan. It is a children’s holiday, during which children wear traditional clothes and sing traditional songs. They also bring special cloth bags to collect sweets, nuts, and coins.
Eid Al Fitr & Eid Al Adha
Two other annual Islamic celebrations are Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha. Eid Al Fitr means “festival of breaking the fast” and it takes place immediately after Ramadan. Family and friends celebrate this three-day event by gathering together, sharing feasts, and giving gifts.
Meanwhile, Eid Al Adha means “festival of sacrifice” and it takes place around 70 days after the end of Ramadan. It also marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. As the name suggests, animals (i.e. goats and sheep) are slaughtered as sacrifice. By tradition, one third of the meat each goes to the family, to friends and relatives, and to the less fortunate, respectively. Just like Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha also lasts for three days.
So there you have it! These are the terms, practices, and events associated with Ramadan in the UAE. As visitors, we are fortunate to be able to witness and experience this event. Pretty soon, we will be saying “Ramadan Kareem” to our Muslim brothers and sisters!
Few tips to follow for non-Muslims during Ramadan
Here are a few tips to follow during Ramadan:
- Eating and drinking in public is banned across the UAE during Ramadan, and strict penalties are levied on those who break the rule. Most eateries are closed during the day for the month, but some restaurants do offer delivery services.
- Avoid eating or drinking in front of colleagues who are fasting in office.
- Do not get into arguments with those who are fasting; be patient and show consideration for the long hours of fasting.
- Dress and behave modestly, avoiding animated behaviour that could cause offence.
- Try to understand Ramadan better by involving yourself in the spirit of the month. Saying ‘Ramadan Kareem’ to Muslims and attending a fast-breaking feast, or iftar, would be appreciated by most Muslims.
- Do not play live music as it is banned through the month.
- Shopping malls and supermarkets are expected to be open late at night.
- Since cultural consciousness is also high during the month, Ramadan can be a good time to connect with the local and Muslim cultural scene by attending the various events, as well as trying local and regional cuisine that is popular during the month of fasting.
- Arabic speaking non-Muslims wishing to learn more about the region and its people will notice that Arabic television channels change their programming to a new schedule dedicated for Ramadan, when some of the most popular celebrities in the Arab world feature in some of the most-watched soap operas, historic series, as well as religious, cultural and musical shows.
It is essentially about purifying the soul and rejuvenating the faith
It is that time of the year again when Muslims all over the world will be united in abstaining from food, drink, nourishment and sexual relations from dawn to dusk. I can reminisce when I was at school, my non-Muslim friends would be filled with pity and sympathy. I was often asked: “How can you survive without food or drink for so many hours?!”
No doubt fasting can be difficult and tiring, especially in the long summer days, but this is the challenge that is meant to strengthen the willpower. It is important to understand that fasting does not only consist of certain abstentions. I think that sometimes people tend to forget that fasting has a much deeper meaning and purpose and that is to develop and refine one’s character and relationship with God.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is an obligation for all adult Muslims to fast. Nevertheless, there are some people who are exempt from fasting. These include: The sick, elderly, travellers, breast feeding and pregnant women and those who are menstruating. Although children are not obligated to fast, many choose to do so.
As a Muslim, I always look forward to the month of Ramadan because there are many lessons to be learnt. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection when Muslims are required to cleanse the soul from negative characteristics and nurture it with good characteristics. The Arabic word for fasting is sawm. This literally means “restraint” and “self-control”. Abstinence from fulfilling the physical desires is a catalyst for self-discipline. It is through self-control that a Muslim practices good manners, good speech and good habits. Abstention from certain things in secret and public is also a manifestation of a Muslim’s true faith in God and obedience to Him. American writer Jeffrey Lang said: “We can observe a Muslim performing the other four pillars, but, in addition to himself, only God knows if he is staying with the fast.”
Fasting inculcates the qualities of empathy and compassion towards the less fortunate. When a person on a fast feels the pangs of hunger and thirst, this evokes a sense of social responsibility and encourages a Muslim to be charitable. During Ramadan, Muslims reflect upon and appreciate the blessings they have in life — basic necessities such as food and water that are sometimes taken for granted. We never truly know how to appreciate something until we lose it, as writer Cynthia Ozick said: “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
Ramadan is a time when Muslims increase in worship, abundant prayers and supplications in a quest to draw closer to God. Some Muslims spend at least some of Ramadan in Makkah, Islam’s holiest place, where they will perform the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage), which is always a humbling and spiritually invigorating experience. The rituals of Umrah are literally following the footsteps of Prophet Abraham, his son Esmail and wife Hajar.
I often wonder why is it that despite the striving to perform the many rites and rituals, there is such a decline in graciousness towards one another? Surely, the epitome of obedience to God is about being considerate towards others and having a good character. A core teaching of Islam is to behave well towards all people and to wish for others what we wish for ourselves. Ramadan is a time to demonstrate these traits until they become a habit. Writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard very eloquently stated: “Habit is a form of exercise.”
The self-control exercised by Muslims during Ramadan is also about restraining the soul from succumbing to the ego and nurturing the soul to be obedient to God and filtering out bad habits. It is through this self-control that Muslims foster virtuous characteristics.
Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Ramadan is essentially about purifying the soul and rejuvenating the faith. This inner faith should then be exhibited as outward morality.
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever does not give up evil speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food or drink.”
In the Quran, God says: “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain God consciousness.”
Morality is a core principle in Islam which must be perfected. This is done by striving to adopt certain universal principles such as sincerity, honesty, justice and compassion towards people. Unfortunately, morality is often overshadowed by an intense focus on rites and rituals. For some people, faith is a remote and abstract entity and does not necessarily have any bearing on the outer character. However, the Quran consistently describes true believers as those having faith and performing righteous actions. Adhering to the five pillars of Islam and having faith should be intertwined with outward morality.
In our post-modern consumer society, many people are self-centred, there is a lack of concern and compassion for others and this weakens the foundation of a society. This is against the precepts of the teachings of Islam. Ultimately, if Ramadan is about having an impact on people’s inner qualities, then this must be manifest in our behaviour towards others.
Credit: Pixabay Ramadan is the holy month, i.e. the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims observe fast from the start of dawn (i.e. just before the start of Fajr) until sunset (i.e. the entrance of maghrib time). Suhur as the morning meal is eaten before Fajr prayer and Iftar as the evening meal, during Ramadan, substituting the traditional three meals. While fasting, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual relations. Regarded as the Five Pillars of Islam, fasting during Ramadan also means increased praying and recitation of the Quran. Since it is an intensely spiritual and sacred period; Non-Muslims are expected to respect the sentiments of fasting Muslims and maintain the sanctity of Ramadan.
- Wish your Muslim friends ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’, as the phrase means ‘Wish you a generous Ramadan’.
- If you wish to get into the charitable spirit, donate at Ramadan camps.
- Listen to music quietly on headphones or in your house without disturbing others.
- Show respect towards those who are fasting by abstaining from eating in front of them.
- If you have Muslim friends, be careful with the language you use on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
- If you are invited to an Iftar meal or called over friends to break the fast, be courteous enough to accept the invitation. You can also offer dates to your hosts, as they are usually the first food to break the fast.
- Don’t drink, chew gum, eat, smoke or listen to music loudly in public during Ramadan.
- Don’t wear revealing or tight clothes, wear respectful clothing during this period.
- Don’t get into fights, abuse or swearing as Ramadan preaches peace and love.
Credit: Pixabay The religious month of Ramadan is marked by fasting and prayer and holds great importance for Islam followers. During this month Muslims abstain from eating, smoking, drinking, sex and other vices from sunrise to sunset to achieve higher levels of patience, spirituality and humility.
Dubai is a predominantly Muslim populated Emirate; the significance of the religious month can be experienced in all spheres of daily life whether in social, business, entertainment and cultural aspects. Working hours and lifestyles change and in totality, the whole city transforms into a more serene mood of religious commitment. Dusk follows the breaking of the fast known as Iftar after which various Ramadan related events are held at social meeting venues. A Non-Muslim is not expected to follow the religious practices during Ramadan; however, he is surely counted upon to respect the sentiments of participating Muslims. To avoid offending the sentiments of Muslims one must be alert of their behaviour during the month. Here are some tips for Non-Muslims to be followed during the month of Ramadan
- In public places, behave and dress in a conservative manner to respect the religious observances followed during Ramadan. Women should avoid wearing short skirts and cover their knees.
- It is illegal to consume meat, drink or smoke in public and if found guilty it could lead to serious consequences. Even chewing gum is seen as an offence. Most restaurants will be closed during the day, but hotels will have contained spaces to serve food. Supermarkets and malls remain open during the day assuming no food or drink is consumed in public.
- Children, pregnant women, medically unfit people, and those fighting in the battle are not expected to fast.
- Greet Muslims by saying ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ during Ramadan
- Be polite enough to attend an Iftar meal. Check the local newspaper and TV channels for Iftar meal timings that change by one minute every day.
- Live music is barred, thus avoid functions in noisy environments whether at home or office, including dance clubs.
- Working hours are shorter during Ramadan. Government offices close at 2 pm while private-sector offices close two hours early than the regular timings.
Restaurants for Non-Muslims available in Dubai during Ramadan
Many Non-Muslims find it difficult to locate restaurants that serve food during the day. Here a list that serves food but with some restrictions –
- Take away from fast food outlets of Burger King and McDonald’s
- Limited outlets of Coffee shops and Cafes
- Restaurants, food outlets and coffee shops at Dubai Airport, Dubai Festival City, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), Dubai Internet City, Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Media City
- Takeaways at Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Batuta Mall and the Dubai Mall
- International cuisine restaurants include Bistro Madeleine, Café Arabesque, Casa Mia, Epicure, Kisaku, Market Café, Planet Hollywood, Asha’s, Medzo, Mahi Mahi, Sukhothai, Wox, Sumo Sushi, Ewaan, Cactus Cantina, Café Sushi, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Mediterraneo, More Café, Wagamama, Zuma, Bussola, Certo, Karam Beirut, Noodle House, Sezzam, Toscana,
Those who wish to savour traditional Iftar meals/buffets could do so at:
- Boulvar Restaurant
- The Lobby Café
- Mediterraneo restaurant at Armani Hotel Dubai
- “At The Top” observation deck at Burj Khalifa
- Asateer Arabian tent at Atlantis Hotel
- Atrium restaurant
- Ramadan Nights At The Terrace
- Ping Pong
- All the star-rated hotels in Dubai.
Whether one is Muslim or Non-Muslim it is essential that we learn to respect other religion’s feelings. Dubai is a progressive emirate among all, embracing all tourists and expatriates with warmth and providing them with their religious space. However, it is not to be forgotten that the UAE is an Islamic country where their religion and followings are strictly adhered to. Visiting Dubai during the Ramadan period may not seem to a feasible idea for many tourists, but if you want to explore the spiritual nuances of Islam then this is the right time regardless of your beliefs.
Updated: 15th July 2021
With its glamorous shopping malls, luxury supercars and sunny beaches, it’s easy to forget that the UAE is a conservative country. There are some rules that may be unfamiliar to visitors and this page will get you clued up.
As the single most popular travel destination in the Middle East, you might think that a trip to Dubai is akin to visiting Spain, Mexico or Thailand. In many ways, that is the case – you will be surrounded by friendly people, delicious food and brilliant sunshine but there is a key difference that you must bear in mind when planning your trip. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a Muslim country that follows Islamic law and while the rules are slightly more relaxed in Dubai, it is important to understand what is and is not appropriate whilst there in order to avoid offending anyone or inadvertently breaking the law and ending up in jail. So, without any further ado, here are our recommendations for keeping within the realms of legality and making the most of your holiday.
Things you should do in Dubai
Check your prescriptions. Drugs are absolutely illegal in Dubai and the government has a zero tolerance policy towards those found in possession. It is important to know that this policy also extends to a number of prescription medicines, such as those containing the painkiller codeine. Make sure you do some research before you travel to ensure you don’t accidentally smuggle in something illegal.
Avoid PDAs. Public displays of affection are a big no-no in Dubai and there have been cases of people being arrested for merely smooching in public. Even hand holding is only viewed as acceptable for married couples. To be on the safe side, it’s best to wait until you’re back in your hotel room before engaging in any physical contact with your partner.
Dress conservatively. You aren’t expected to wear a full burqa during your trip but women should dress modestly outside of their resort. Shopping malls will often have dress codes that you are expected to adhere to. Men shouldn’t walk around topless away from the beach and women should wear a headscarf when visiting religious monuments.
Abide by the rules of Ramadan. If you happen to be travelling during Ramadan be sure to read up on how you should behave during this religious festival. In brief, eating, drinking and smoking in public during the day is strictly forbidden.
Be respectful. Islam is a religion founded on respect and if you act in a respectful and humble way, you will find that people will greet you with a smile and offer you their warmest hospitality.
Things you shouldn’t do in Dubai
Be drunk in public. Alcohol consumption is illegal for the Muslim-majority population of Dubai. Non-Muslims are able to purchase alcohol in licensed bars, restaurants and hotels. But be careful not to have too many, as it is illegal to act disorderly in public, whether you are Muslim or not.
Take photos of people without their explicit permission. It is considered rude to snap a photo of anyone without asking them first – this particularly applies to taking photos of local women.
Swear. Cussing and foul language are considered an offence and a number of foreigners have got themselves in trouble by making vulgar comments in the presence of an undercover police office. Keep it clean folks.
Insult Islam. This is probably the worst thing you can do in an Islamic country. Regardless of your personal opinion on Islam, do not say anything out loud that might be deemed as disrespectful. Blasphemy carries serious punishments so if you have any strong opinions on Islam, keep them to yourself.
Flaunt your homosexuality. It is sad to have to say, but unfortunately homosexuality is still illegal in the UAE. Any public displays of affection between members of the same (or opposite unless married) sex could land you in big trouble. Cross-dressing is also illegal.
Use your left hand. This might seem like an odd rule but in Muslim culture the left hand is used for body hygiene and is therefore considered unclean. You should never shake hands or greet anyone with your left hand and you definitely shouldn’t be caught eating with it.
To help you plan your trip to Dubai, take a look at our handy travel resources:
Best Places to Visit – the top sites in Dubai you need to visit
Best Time to Visit – seasons and weather in Dubai
Tourist Visas – the information you need for entering Dubai
Top Travel Tips – useful info on money, health and solo travel in Dubai