Ramadan Dos and Don’ts for Expats

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Ramadan is the most widely celebrated time of the year in the Arab world. With over 85% of Dubai’s population being expatriates and more than half of all people Muslims, one may assume customs and traditions aren’t so strictly followed. However, to show their respect and understanding, expats should know how to behave during the holy month. Here are some Ramadan dos and don’ts for everyone who wasn’t born in Dubai.

Ramadan Dos

Participate in traditional customs and enjoy performances and local foods as much as you can. You can learn a lot about Islam, but also about your own religion and culture, as well. Try to enjoy Arabic oud players – some authentic performances you won’t have the chance to listen to back in your home country. Visit iftar tents with friends and family to taste something new and experience Ramadan spirit yourself.

Donate and take part in any kind of charity initiatives. Zakat, or giving and donating in Islam, is very important in general, but during Ramadan it’s even more significant. Donate food, old or unwanted clothing, or volunteer in hospitals or for other initiatives.

Try to drive carefully – something you should do at all times, but it’s essential especially during Ramadan, as there are more road accidents around this time of the year. More people are travelling to meet with families and relatives, hurrying for prayers and iftars, and so on.

And of course, you should be familiar with a few don’ts unless you want to insult your co-workers, neighbors and friends, or worse – to have problems with the law.

Ramadan Don’ts

Don’t eat and drink in daylight in public during the holy month. In fact, you shouldn’t even smoke or chew a gum, as it is pure violation of the rules and understandings of local people. Of course, if you are not fasting, you can eat, but at home or somewhere in private. After all, think of all who fast and how difficult it must be for them – they aren’t allowed even to drink water. Besides, eating in public will also get you trouble with the police.

Don’t curse and swear in public and don’t show any inappropriate excitement with singing or dancing. Don’t listen to music out loud; instead, use your headset and enjoy your favourite music by yourself. All these are very insulting and won’t be welcomed by anyone who is fasting.

Also, don’t wear any revealing or tight clothes in public. This is valid for both men and women and breaking that rule will get you in trouble. Try to be more modest and respectful, as Ramadan is a time for contemplation, reflection and religious and spiritual purification.

In addition, here are some phrases and greetings you can learn to share with the people around you. This will surprise and please them, proving that you hold a deep respect for their religion, cultural and ethnical essence.

“Ramadan Kareem” – Blessed Ramadan
“Embarak alaikum shahr Ramadan” – May the month of Ramadan be a blessing for you.
“Siyam Kareem” – Blessed fasting
“Taqabbala Allah” – My God accept your prayers, fasting.
“Tafaddal iftar ma3na” – Please, join us for iftar.
“Eid Mubarak” – Blessed Eid. This greeting is used during Eid al-Fitr, or the end of Ramadan, which is marked by big celebrations and a national holiday.

While the first meal of the day before sunrise is called suhoor, the first one after the fasting hours is iftar. These are the basic rules you should follow during Ramadan – and don’t see them as restrictions. On the contrary, knowing them will open your eyes for many details about Muslim lifestyle you haven’t noticed before. It is certainly a new and enlightening experience for everyone.

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