Introduction – Ramadan in the UAE

Ramadan in the UAE is a special part of the year. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered the holiest month for Muslims. It is a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community for Muslims worldwide. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and other physical needs. The fast is broken each day with a meal called iftar, often starting with dates and water followed by a larger meal.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the fundamental acts of worship and devotion that Muslims follow. It is believed to teach self-discipline, self-restraint, and empathy for those less fortunate, as well as to purify the soul and foster a closer relationship with God (Allah). The end of Ramadan is marked by the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, a festival of breaking the fast, which is observed with prayers, feasting, and giving of gifts.

When does it start?

The start of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the new moon, which marks the beginning of the lunar month in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months, each with either 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon.

Traditionally, the sighting of the new moon can be done with the naked eye, and it is usually observed by religious authorities or local communities. Once the new moon is sighted, religious authorities announce the beginning of Ramadan.

However, due to variations in moon-sighting methods and regional differences, there may be slight variations in the start date of Ramadan from one place to another. In some cases, countries or Islamic organizations may rely on astronomical calculations to determine the start of Ramadan, especially in areas where moon sightings may be difficult due to weather conditions or urbanization.

Overall, the start of Ramadan is a significant event for Muslims worldwide, marking the beginning of a month-long period of fasting, prayer, reflection, and spiritual growth.

The Important Dates during Ramadan

Several important dates mark the month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. Here are some key dates to be aware of:

  1. First Day of Ramadan: This marks the beginning of the month of fasting. The exact start date of Ramadan varies each year and is determined by the sighting of the new moon.
  2. Lailat al-Qadr: Also known as the Night of Decree or Power, this is considered the holiest night of the year in Islam. It falls on the 26th day of Ramadan.
  3. Eid al-Fitr: This is the festival of breaking the fast, which marks the end of Ramadan. It begins with the sighting of the new moon on the first day of Shawwal, the month following Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with special prayers, feasting, giving of gifts, and acts of charity.

These are the main dates that are significant during Ramadan, but there are also other important moments throughout the month for Muslims, such as daily prayers, Quranic recitations, and acts of charity.

The Important Meals during Ramadan

During Ramadan, Muslims typically have two main meals: Suhoor and Iftar.

  1. Suhoor: This is the pre-dawn meal eaten before the fast begins. It is consumed early in the morning, before the Fajr (dawn) prayer. Suhoor is meant to provide sustenance for the day ahead during the fasting hours. It often includes foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as whole grains, eggs, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables, as well as plenty of fluids to stay hydrated throughout the day. Common items for Suhoor include oatmeal, bread, dates, and water.
  2. Iftar: This is the meal to break the fast at sunset, usually performed with the Maghrib prayer. Iftar is a moment of celebration and togetherness for families and communities. It typically begins with the consumption of dates and water, following the tradition of Prophet Muhammad, and then proceeds with a larger meal. The meal may include a variety of dishes, often starting with soups or salads, followed by main courses consisting of meats, rice, vegetables, and other traditional foods. Sweet treats and desserts are also common during Iftar, such as baklava, kunafa, or other pastries.

Both Suhoor and Iftar meals are important aspects of Ramadan, providing opportunities for spiritual reflection, family bonding, and communal solidarity. Additionally, it’s essential for individuals fasting to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet during Ramadan to ensure they remain healthy throughout the month.

These two meals are key events during the holy month in the UAE. It is a social event with corporate Iftars and suhoors for employees, clients and extended networks.

What to keep in mind when travelling to the UAE during Ramadan?

Traveling to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during Ramadan requires some awareness and respect for local customs and traditions. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  1. Respectful Dress: Dress modestly, especially in public areas and religious sites. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, and both men and women should avoid tight or revealing clothing.
  2. Public Behavior: Be mindful of public behavior, such as eating, drinking, or smoking, during daylight hours. It is considered disrespectful to do these things in public while Muslims are fasting.
  3. Business Hours: Many businesses, including restaurants and shops, have adjusted hours during Ramadan. Some may close during the day and reopen in the evening. It’s advisable to check the opening hours of establishments in advance. Muslims work 6 hours during ramadan, non-Muslims 7 hours.
  4. Eating and Drinking: While non-Muslims are not required to fast, it is respectful to refrain from eating, drinking, or chewing gum in public during daylight hours. Restaurants may be open for non-Muslims, but it’s best to eat discreetly and in designated areas.
  5. Iftar: Joining an iftar meal, the evening meal to break the fast, can be a great way to experience Ramadan traditions and hospitality. Many hotels and restaurants offer special iftar buffets during Ramadan.
  6. Prayer Times: Be aware of prayer times, as there may be temporary traffic disruptions around mosques during prayer times, especially in the evenings.
  7. Cultural Sensitivity: Be respectful of local customs and traditions, including avoiding public displays of affection, loud music, or dancing in public areas.
  8. Plan Ahead: If you have specific activities or attractions you want to visit, check their schedules during Ramadan as some may have altered hours or may be closed.

By being mindful of these considerations, you can ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience while traveling to the UAE during Ramadan.

Conclusion

Ramadan is a significant time for Muslims around the world, characterised by fasting, prayer, reflection, and community.

 

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We hope this publication will help you understand the reach and impact of Ramadan in the UAE and remain available for any questions regarding this post of general application.

For more information published in English you can visit all our publications at this link as well as the videos in English of our Partner Maria Rubert.

*The information on this page is not intended to be legal advice. This article is intended to provide an initial introduction to Ramadan in the UAE.