As the school year comes to an end we are forced to constantly come to terms with our inability to visit the states this summer. This will be our first summer away from home. It is, however, for a good a cause; our baby is due in August which doesn’t leave us enough time to travel internationally. I am dreading the intense heat and am a bit leery about the start of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a holy and very scared time for Muslims. However, because there is no separation of church and state, Ramadan initiates a temporary routine/ life change for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. While speaking with some of our friends and family back home, I realized that most of them don’t understand Ramadan and it’s effects on this country and more specifically its expatriate community. I hope that this post sheds some light on how different things will be here in the UAE and other Muslim countries during this time.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a month of reflection, prayer, and fasting for Muslims. They fast from dawn (around 4:30am) to sunset (around 7pm) everyday to become closer to Allah, cleanse their body of impurities, and to be reminded of how the less fortunate may feel. Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam so fasting during this period is essential for most devout Muslims. There are some exceptions when it comes to the fasting aspect of Ramadan. This year Ramadan is scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 29th, in accordance to the sighting of the crescent moon, and end on Sunday, July 27th.
Basic Rules During Ramadan for Muslims
- No eating, drinking, smoking, or intercourse from dawn to sunset.
- Curb emotions such as anger, greed, envy, lust, and refrain from gossip.
- Keep thoughts and actions pure and use the fasting period as a time for spiritual contemplations.
- Help those in need.
- Visit friends and family members.
Basic Rules During Ramadan for Non-Muslims
- It is illegal to publicly eat, drink, chew gum, or smoke during the fasting period. This include ones own car.*Both Muslim and non-Muslim children, pregnant and breastfeeding women,those with illnesses, and travelers are exempt from the eating and drinking regulations.
- Everyone is expected to dress more conservatively during this time. Women are requested and expected to limit the amount of make-up worn and cover arms, legs, and shoulders.
- No music or dancing is allowed during Ramadan so car stereos should be turned down and one should even be mindful of playing music too loudly in his or her own home.
*As teachers are still expected to work for the next 2 weeks we have been asked to be very discreet regarding food and water that we bring into the building. Also, if we must eat, it should be done in a private area away from our Muslim co-workers.
Overall, non-Muslims are asked to be respectful and mindful of Islam and Muslims during this time.
Changes in Everyday Routines
It is widely stated that during the fasting period Muslims spend a lot of their time sleeping and praying. Therefore, hours of operations for businesses shift to adhere to their schedules. During the day some restaurants are completely closed while others are open for takeout only. Most businesses are open for a maximum of 6 hours a day. For example, a local home store will open from 11am-2pm and then again from 8pm to 11pm. Nightclubs will remain closed during the entire period of Ramadan and live music will not be played in hotels and bars. Alcohol, however, will be served from 8pm onwards in bars and hotels. Music in shopping centers will either be non-existent or replaced with Quran recitations. Some family friendly entertainment venues will remain closed during Ramadan while others will open from 8pm-midnight.
From 7pm onwards the UAE comes alive. Muslims and non-Muslims will be out and about eating and visiting friends and family. The streets will be packed and restaurants open for dining in. Muslims will be having Iftar, the meal that breaks their fast, either in their homes or in restaurants. Iftar is usually a large meal that is eaten with both Muslims and non-Muslims or just with ones own family members. Providing Iftar for others is seen as a charitable act. Several hotels advertise their Iftar timings and specials and I’m looking forward to our experiencing one during this time.
How will Ramadan Effect Us?
Overall, we will be forced to be hermits during the day. We have discussed trying new recipes and a perhaps completing a home project. We have also decided to have Christmas in summer this year and buy lots of new toys as we will be in the house with a 1 and 2-year-old. Bedtime will possibly be pushed back to experience less of the day. We live in a row house which means that we can hear our neighbors through the walls at times. One of the families next to us practice Islam, so we are concerned about their schedule during this time. Hopefully, they will be traveling to their home country as many people here do during the summer. If not, it may mean that we will have to be considerate of their sleeping during the day and they will have to consider us at night.
Since this is our last day of “regular” living for a month it’s not too early to wish everyone a Happy Ramadan.
*For more information feel free to read the articles below: