As the month of Ramadan quickly approaches, I’ve put together this quick guide for those who want to know more about what Ramadan is like in Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates. Perhaps this is your first Ramadan here or you’re visiting as a tourist or maybe you just want to learn more. This article is your quick guide to Ramadan in Dubai.
This is actually my first Ramadan as a revert to Islam however I actually tried to fast for the previous two years (you can read more about my previous experience here and why I decided to fast.) Previously many expatriates used to go away during Ramadan but increasingly many of us stay here. It’s possible to live a pretty normal life here during Ramadan but with a few small changes, as you’ll find out below!
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a special holy month for Muslims, marked by the sighting of the new crescent moon. In this month, Muslims fast by not eating any food or drinking water during daylight hours. While many focus on the food aspect, it is also a time to avoid bad behavior like gossiping or arguing and perform good acts. It is also a time to contemplate and bring yourself closer to Allah. The main focus is that of giving, where Muslims provide food for the less fortunate, do good deeds and give charity. Though if you take a trip to the Ramadan fridges in the UAE, you’ll notice that many different people join in by giving food to the needy.
In the UAE, working hours are reduced by two hours to help as fasting can be tough on the body and mind causing tiredness. These two hours help to be able to break fast at home and helps in attending the late night prayers held at Mosques.
Wait, but what if I want to eat in the day?
Don’t worry! These days many restaurants remain open. You’ll see boards put up so that the eating isn’t visible for those who are fasting. If you’re working, typically the office will have a designated eating area. Other restaurants won’t open until just before sunset. Typically these restaurants remain open until the early hours of the morning during Ramadan, so if you’re a night owl you’ll love being able to eat with your friends till the early hours.
Is there anything else I should do?
Particularly in this month, you should respect the rules and cultures of the UAE. It is better to dress more conservatively, not play loud music in your car and do not eat in your car. There are fines for eating, drinking or even smoking in public during daylight hours. So just be a little more careful about what you do during the daytime.
What are all these words? Iftar? Maghrib?
Okay so for Ramadan you’ll hear a few words that maybe you haven’t heard used before. So here’s a few you might hear:
Iftar – This is the first meal where Muslims break their fast. Many restaurants and Mosques put up huge tents for people to break their fast together. Typically restaurants do a large buffet with lots of different selections of foods. This is a great month for all the foodies and often very reasonable compared with your typical hotel buffet. Some places do a set menu and you’ll be able to find a selection to suit every cuisine and budget.
Suhoor – This is the meal before they start their fast, like a very early breakfast. Usually done at home with the family however you will find restaurants open for suhoor.
Maghrib – The prayer that is performed at sunset and marks when Muslims are able to eat again. So if you hear someone saying, “I’m counting down till Maghrib,” now you know why!
Fajr – You probably won’t hear this one as much but this is the first prayer as sunrise starts and this marks when Muslims need to start their fast again.
Ramadan Mubarak – This means Happy Ramadan and is a typical greeting people use to each other during this month. You can just reply “Ramadan Mubarak” back.
Ramadan Kareem – Another greeting commonly used, it means Blessed Ramadan. Again you just say “Ramadan Kareem” back.
I’m a tourist, will everything be closed?
These days, most places are operating as normal. Businesses and government offices will close a few hours earlier and some restaurants won’t open till the evening. There are a lot of festivities and beautiful iftars so it’s a great time to experience Dubai’s culture. Many places are open much later. So if you want a nice lie in or want to explore Dubai in the night time, Ramadan can actually be pretty awesome as a tourist!
We hope these quick tips helped give you a better idea about Ramadan. To all those celebrating we wish you a blessed holy month. Ramadan Mubarak!