25 August 2013| Last updated on 25 May 2017
A serenity and calm takes over, peace seems to surround the people and everyone is friendlier. If it is indeed your first Ramadan, please read our guide to familiarise yourself with what happens during this month.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is one of the most important months for Muslims as it is believed this is the month that the Qu'ran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). During this month, all healthy Muslims fast from dawn to sunset when they must refrain from all food, drink, gum chewing, any kind of tobacco use and any kind of intimacy.
People who are physically or mentally unwell are exempt, as are people who are travelling, women who are pregnant, who are menstruating and children under twelve. If the fast is missed, they should try to make up the fast at a later date, or make a donation to the poor instead.
Fasting or Sawm is one of the five pillars of Islam which all Muslims are expected to follow, the other four are Faith (Shahadah), Prayer (Salah), Charitable Giving (Zakah), and the Pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj).
During Ramadan, most Muslims will tend to wake up just before dawn to eat a meal or some food and this is known as Suhoor. They will then not be able to eat or drink again until sunset when it is traditional to open the fast with a date and then eat and this meal is known as Iftar.
There are many things to look forward to during this Holy Month, but there are certainly some challenges at times. Since it can be difficult to truly understand the fasting process without actually experiencing it, here are some relatable things many go through while fasting.
Meet Dina - She hails from Canada, with Egyptian heritage. As Dina is a Muslim, she fasts during the Holy Month of Ramadan and for her first Ramadan last year in Dubai, she had agreed to document and share her life during the Holy Month, in order to give our readers an understanding of what her life is like during Ramadan.
Whether it means creating, learning, doing, making or helping, there’s lots that your child can get involved with during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Essentially, you want to include your child and get them to be and feel like they are part of something, so we’ve come up with a long list of ideas to help you achieve that.
The Holy Month of Ramadan may be a first for many this year; with new expats moving the the Middle East, there will be many individuals who have not experienced the time before. With these frequently asked questions and answers, you'll no doubt broaden your knowledge on the subject of the Holy Month.
Friendly words in any language are welcome to say throughout the Holy Month, such as "I hope you have a blessed Ramadan", or "may you have a peaceful Ramadan." However, there is a more commonly used and traditionally Arabic greeting that a lot of people use, and that is "Ramadan Kareem!", which means noble or generous Ramadan.
How should I reply if they great me?
If someone greets you with "Ramadan Kareem", return the saying or you can say "Ramadan Mubarak".
Should my public behaviour change in Ramadan?
Indeed, there are different ways that you should change your behaviour during the Holy Month that will ensure you are respectful at all times to those who are fasting. You can find the EW guide to do's and don'ts during Ramadan here.
When and where can I eat during daylight hours?
Show respect for those who are fasting during the day by not eating and drinking in front of them; whether it's in work or in public. Most malls, hotels and offices will have one or two eateries open but discreetly tucked away behind screens and/or closed doors.
How should I handle food gifts from neighbours or colleagues?
The traditional Arabic date is a fine gift to give or receive during the Holy Month, as the date symbolises Arabic traditions in breaking the fast at Iftar. If you receive such a gift, be respecful in receiving it, but it's fine to not open or touch it until you return home or after-dark.
What will happen on the roads?
You may find that the pace of driving picks up slightly once working hours has finished across the city, those who are fasting will be keen to get home ready for Iftar. So, as you always should, take care when driving and give way to those who are eager to rush home. You may witness drivers pulling over at sunset to break their fast; this is something that the police forces are encouraging people not to do to ensure the safety of other drivers on the roads.
When is the best time to shop?
Well, malls and shopping centers will be open until the early hours of the morning to allow those who have fasted to catch up on their daily routines that may have been missed. So take advantage of the opportunity to late night shop - some malls will be open until 1 or 2am in the morning!!
Will my paperwork get done?
Of course... But it may take a little longer than normal. Remember that government and municipality buildings will be working on the legal Ramadan hours, thus their work load will be less than other months in the year. Be patient.
Things that are different:
• Some businesses change their opening hours – usually business hours are shorter, allowing for those that fast to take rest and reflect during the day time.
• Some shops may close in the afternoon (1pm onwards) but most also stay open to later times – in fact most shopping malls extend their nighttime hours to midnight and beyond.
|- See here for Ramadan Timings -|
• There is no loud music allowed during Ramadan and of course no alcohol served during daylight hours - bars and restaurants do open in the evening though with light background music. Every hotel has a special Iftar dinner special and some hotels host a Suhoor late into the night. Both are a wonderful experience.
• Rush hour time changes from 6pm to 2pm as most offices close at that time. The roads are also quite busy around sunset time.
Tips for non-fasters:
• There are restaurants and cafes that have a special licence to open during the day for non-fasters and these will be screened-off from public view, so it is still possible to eat outside your home. Most hotels have an outlet open during the day too.
• If you work, most offices will implement an area for eating and drinking - don’t have coffee or water at your desk as it may disturb your colleagues.
• If you are pregnant, you are exempt from fasting but it is polite to still be discreet. Same with children - they do not have to fast too but it is always best to be discreet.
• Your car is classed as a public place, so definitely no smoking, eating or drinking in there.
• You can also use restrooms in malls etc. to take a drink.
• Try and be patient with people who are fasting - it is tough and it is hot here. Ramadan is a time of peace and you should not shout or show anger.
• The roads do tend to become a little faster than normal just before Iftar time as people are rushing home to break their fast - take care or avoid driving at this time.
• If you find yourself in a taxi during Iftar, be patient while the driver stops and takes a drink and breaks his fast. It is easy to forget that the driver has been in his hot taxi all day without food and drink.
Ramadan is a very special time of year - so embrace where you are and join in - why not try fasting to see what it is like? Do something for charity in the spirit of the season - thinking about others less fortunate than ourselves.
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