The Holy Month of Ramadan in Dubai is quite different and unique, because of the cultural heritage of people from many different nationalities living in the emirate. However, there is a certain etiquette that even tourists should respect as it is time for abstinence, reflection and meditation for Emiratis and Muslims in general. If you want to observe Ramadan this year, or you just wish to know how to behave, there are some basic rules you should follow.
This year, Ramadan starts July 10 and will continue for a month, or 30 days. So, August 9 will be the first day of Shawwal and the first day of the celebrations of Eid Al Fitr. The first things you will notice in Dubai and the other emirates are the changed working hours for shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment facilities, government services and service providers. The most popular emirate might be one of the busiest cities in the world, but every year it slows down to observe Ramadan. This is due to the fact that most people are fasting during the day and eating or drinking is not accepted in public. And the other reason, of course, is that this time is a most spiritual experience for Muslims who avoid not only eating and drinking, but also smoking. Some people also refrain from swearing and engaging in sexual relations and some entertainment activities, as well as anything seen as distracting and unclean. Instead, praying, recitations from the Quran, and reflecting over one’s life, good and bad in the world are taking place.
People fast from dusk to dawn and break their fast when the sun sets. Traditionally, this happens by consuming three dates and is called Iftar. Of course, early breakfast, or Suhoor, before sunrise is also allowed. Usually people gather to have their Iftar together – a tradition, which has grown into a banquet festival. If someone invites you to their family or any other Iftar, don’t hesitate and accept. You will enjoy it!
Most restaurants, cafes and bars will be closed, opening for Iftar buffets in the evening. So, if you are a tourist avoid eating out, or stick to the food your hotel restaurant offers (most hotels remain open during the day for tourists) even if it’s not permitted by the authorities. If you are seen eating or drinking, you will receive a warning by the Police, so it’s better to just follow the tradition. There will be no music during Ramadan, and nightclubs will be closed. Of course, you will find no concert, festival, or any event that is loud and offers some noisy entertainment.
Another tradition during Ramadan is the more modest clothing. Avoid revealing and tight clothes simply out of respect. And one of the most important things during Ramadan, and in Islam in general, is charity. Even if some people don’t have money to give to the ones who need it, they will give homeless people food and water. Once Ramadan is over, you may exchange gifts with your friends and visit as many parties as you want. In fact, during Eid Al Fitr, wearing new clothes and having fun with friends and family is encouraged, because this is a huge holiday and celebration for the Muslim world.
There are many great ways to immerse you and get a better understanding of the culture and the values of Islam. People believe that Ramadan fasting teaches you modesty, sympathy for others, and encourages you to do good deeds, eventually making you a better person. So, what better chance to feel closer to these old customs and traditions than Ramadan?