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Ramadan FAQs: All you need to know about the holy month in the UAE

1. What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. It is the most holy month in the calendar for Muslims as it is believed the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan. During this month, Muslims do not consume any food or liquid between fajr and maghrib prayers (at dawn and sunset), not even water. You can check the exact prayer timings here: UAE prayer times.

2. Do all Muslims fast?

Only those who are fit and healthy are meant to fast. This excludes children who have not reached puberty, the elderly, anyone who is ill or must take medication, anyone travelling or women who are on their peroid. It is also advised that pregnant women do not fast. Those who cannot fast should “make up” the fast at a later date.

3. What else are you supposed to do during Ramadan?

Ramadan isn’t just about fasting from food, it is primarily about being more pious and seeking spiritual closeness to God. Some Muslims spend more time in the mosque during the holy month or read the Quran. Ramadan is a time when Muslims should think less about materialistic things and focus more on charity, patience and being grateful.

4. Is the entire month the same?

No, it is believed the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Devout Muslims can spend all night praying as religious practices intensify. Workers might come in tired or sleep deprived, along with feeling the effects of the fast, so be mindful.

5. Am I allowed to eat, drink or smoke in public during fasting hours?

No, during fasting hours, even non-Muslims are expected to follow the rules of fasting in public. You are allowed to eat, drink and smoke in private. During work, companies are required to provide an eating room away from those fasting.

6. Can people eat, drink or smoke in the car?

Yes but only if the interior of the car is not visible however it is best to be discreet. If it is seen in public is considered as a crime.

7. Should people dress differently in the UAE during Ramadan?

Dressing modestly is essential during the holy month, for men and women. Revealing and tight clothing should be avoided throughout the whole of Ramadan.

8. How should I treat my friends and co-workers who are fasting?

The first week or two is usually the hardest for fasters. Not drinking water, not eating and quitting smoking can have a big effect on those fasting – so don’t be offended if they don’t want to hang out before Iftar.

Ramadan kareemRavindranath K / The National

9. Are malls and shops open during fasting hours?

Yes, however restaurants will be closed. Most shops will close an hour before and a few hours after iftar, so be sure to check timings ahead of visiting a shop. After Iftar, almost all shops will be open. Malls will be open throughout the day and will stay open later into the evening, as late as midnight or 1am but again, check before you commit to a trip.

10. Are working hours shortened during Ramadan?

Yes. Here are the hours for public sector workers and private sector workers. “Ramadan hours” apply to all employees, not just Muslims.

11. Can visitors, tourists or non-Muslim residents buy alcohol or go to clubs or pubs during Ramadan?

Most major nightclubs will close for Ramadan. Bars, pubs and lounges will generally remain open but will only serve alcohol after sunset. Live or loud music is also not played in bars and pubs.

12. Do all restaurants stop serving food to residents and visitors even if they are non-Muslims?

Some restaurants and cafes close during the day until sunset although most will have a closed off area and remain open discretely for non-fasters.

13. Where can people who don’t fast get their lunch?

Supermarkets stay open throughout the day. Takeaway food can also be delivered. Some hotels have a restaurant available where non-fasters can eat and room service remains available.

14. What are the rules about eating at work?

If employees work in a shared or open plan office, they can designate a closed room for non-fasting staff to eat. Otherwise it is considered disrespectful to eat in front of fasting colleagues.

15. Can people wear bikinis on the beach during Ramadan?

Public beaches, beach parks and hotel pools will all be open as usual, so people can continue to wear swimwear in these areas.

16. Can people play loud music in cars, at homes, or in public?

Music can be played but it should not be heard by others. Some Muslims prefer not to listen to music at all during Ramadan, so be mindful.

17. Can people chew gum during the daytime?

This is not allowed because it is seen as eating.

18. In Islam, if a Muslim is travelling they are exempt from fasting for the period of travel, so are they allowed to eat or drink or smoke in the airport?

Yes, this is allowed.

18. Is it OK to drink water at they gym while working out?

Yes but be mindful when leaving the gym to go to the car park.

20. If children are exempt from fasting, can they eat in public?

Yes, this is allowed.

Iftar inviteSarah Dea / The National

21. If non-Muslims have been invited to an Iftar meal with Muslim colleagues, can they accept the invitation?

Yes they can accept the invitation, but it is nice not to go empty-handed. Feel free to take Arabic desserts or sweets or a box of dates.

22. If I see someone faint, what can I do to help?

Give them food and water as their fast will be considered broken – also call an ambulance.

23. Can I feed my pets or street animals in public during Ramadan?

Yes, Islam tells Muslims to be kind to animals.

24. Can I shake hands with fasting colleagues of the opposite sex during Ramadan?

Yes but do not be surprised if they decline to shake hands, some Muslims become more reserved during the holy month.

Sheikh Zayed Grand MosqueLee Hoagland / The National

25. Can non-Muslims drive at sundown while fasters head home to break their fasts?

Yes but roads will be busy with people heading home to to break their fasts as they will not have eaten or drank anything for around 15 hours. If people who do not fast don’t need to be on the road at that time, it would be wise to wait half an hour to give fasters a chance to reach their homes. Police urge people to drive carefully and avoid speeding, particularly at sundown.

26. Can people kiss on cheeks or hug their partner or friends of the opposite sex in public during Ramadan?

As at other times of the year- but especially during Ramadan- people should avoid demonstrative acts of affection in public. This can cause offence.

27. Can non-Muslim residents or tourists go to Ramadan tents at Iftar or Suhour times?

Yes they can, but it is best not to leave dinner reservations until the last minute because restaurants across the country can become much busier as families meet to break the fast together.

28. Is there anything I should avoid doing on social media during Ramadan?

Non-Muslims should consider whether they have Muslim friends who are fasting on their social media networks before using strong language or sharing images that could be deemed inappropriate.


Further Ramadan reading:

■ To help pass the time: 20 Arabic TV shows to watch during Ramadan

■ Looking for somewhere to have iftar? Check out the best places to eat in the UAE

■ Some events to look out for during the Holy Month: night markets

■ A time for giving: How and where to give during Ramadan 2016 in the UAE

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(via The National)