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Ramadan in UAE

In the desert amid the rising mercury, a warm breeze the sacred days of Ramadan is drawing near, promising the days of self control, realization and sacrifice to cleanse ones body and soul. The holy month of Ramadan this year (2008) will start on Monday, the 1st of September and will continue for 30 days until Tuesday, the 30th of September in the UAE.

Ramadan is the month of fasting observed in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The month of Ramadan is particularly sacred to Muslims because the holy Qur'an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), during this month.

Fasting is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith and reminds Muslims of the plight of the poor, sick and needy. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the 30-day fasting period and is a great celebration throughout the Muslim world. Religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month. Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) is considered the most holy night during Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan, People have the following obligations.

  • No eating, drinking, smoking or engaging in worldly pleasures between sunrise (fajr) and sunset (maghrib).
  • Curb undesirable emotions such as anger, greed, envy, lust and refrain from gossip.
  • Keep thoughts and actions pure and use the time of fasting for spiritual contemplation.
  • Be charitable and help those in need (Zakat al-Fitr)
  • Visit friends and family members.

During the month of Ramadan, many organizations tend to have reduced working hours for their staff, especially for those who are fasting. In the past, business would slow down during this holy period. Over the years however, with several changes made to achieve efficiency while caring for the people who are fasting, it is business as usual and the normal business hours are covered in most cases with employees working different shifts in most organizations in the private sector. Schools have special hours too, to accommodate the needs of fasting teachers and older children.

Islam is a tolerant religion and respects people of all cultures, races and religions. In keeping with this, non-Muslims in Dubai are not obliged in any way other than as a sign of respect, to refrain the consumption of food and drink, chewing gum and smoking cigarettes in public during fasting hours (dawn to dusk).  Almost all restaurants and cafes will be closed during the day but many will extend their opening hours at night.  There will be a few eating outlets open during the day for dine-in customers in larger hotels and shopping centers. Some fast food restaurants allow drive-through or take-outs. Supermarkets are normally open during the day and have extended hours at night - sometimes till midnight or even later.

In the morning and early afternoon during Ramadan, the UAE is abuzz with activities that would occur in any large city. There is a noticeable slow down in the evening when it is time to break the fast, iftar, just after the sun sets, a cannon is fired to announce the breaking of the fast for the day. Many hotels will have special Iftar tents where customers can have a simple or more complex meal - with a range of prices to match. Organisations and people conduct iftar parties later in the evening when it becomes more festive with larger meals enjoyed amongst friends and family.

The conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan is pronounced by the sighting of the moon. Eid al-Fitr (festival to break the fast) is a day of celebration. It starts with prayers at the mosques and then the rest of the day is a celebration with family and friends and visits with the infirm and elderly. All public offices and some private sector offices remain closed for the festivities. In true UAE tradition, it is time to capture the spirit and enjoy the celebration.

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