Modesty is emphasised during Ramadan and this should be respected by everyone in public. Shoulders and chests should be covered, and skirts should fall below the knee. Of course, if you’re beside the pool or beach, swimwear is acceptable, but beyond that, when in public you should dress appropriately as a sign of respect. You may be escorted out of a shopping mall if you’re not.
With everyone who’s been fasting eager to join family and friends, thousands head home or out for their iftar buffets at the same time, so around sunset the roads can get really busy. Each year the road accident rate rockets as drivers get behind the wheel, suffering from temporary dehydration and low blood sugar. Tiredness, impatience and headaches are a lethal cocktail for any driver.
At sundown, Muslims break their daily fast with an iftar – a sumptuous meal enjoyed with friends and family. For an authentic experience, join a Muslim friend or colleague at their home and indulge in a traditional Arabian buffet of mezze, desserts and juices. The socialising continues way into the night as the suhoors begin and friends lie back, taking in the sweet aroma of shisha and the strains of relaxing oud music until the early hours. Ramadan is all about community spirit – make sure you’re part of it.
While officially Ramadan is a spiritual time for Muslims, this Holy period has lessons for us all, says Nasif Kayed, General Manager at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. “Ramadan is about being a better person, it is all about discipline and empathy,” says Nasif. “It teaches one not to be wasteful, to reach out to others, to show humanity and tolerance.” Indeed, these are lessons that can extend way beyond Eid for everyone. Take time to understand and appreciate the message.
…Eat and drink in public
One of the big lessons taught during Ramadan is not to be wasteful. Muslims fast during daylight hours in order to learn that we should all “eat to live, and not live to eat”. It also teaches them about self-control and discipline. As a courtesy to all those fasting, other people should not eat or drink in public. Walking around brazenly sipping from a water bottle or eating a bag of crisps is not acceptable and may result in a fine or a trip to the police station.
…Play music in public
As you are driving around during Ramadan, keep your car radio off or turned down low. Likewise, if you’re at home, music that can be heard by others outside will be considered disrespectful. Muslims are expected to avoid listening to music during this Holy Month, since it may distract them from their spiritual thoughts and behaviour. So be discreet.
…Expect to party hard
The nightlife in the UAE takes on a more sedate tone during Ramadan. You’ll find that many bars and clubs will be closed. Those that are open may be playing background music with the volume on low, and there’s no live music. Postpone your partying for a more appropriate time.
…Stick to your usual timetable
If you are set in your ways, you might find that you will have to change your schedule during Ramadan. While shopping malls and supermarkets maintain daytime opening times with extended evening hours, offices will adjust their working hours. Employers stick to the guidelines set up by the Federal Government, and private sector companies are required to shorten working hours.
…Lose your temper
While Ramadan may interfere with your usual routine, remember that it is a time for self control. All Muslims should avoid thinking bad thoughts, cursing or getting angry during this period – non-Muslims can benefit from adopting a similar attitude during the month.
Driving during Ramadan
The notorious pre-iftar road rush can be a little scary. Here are a few pointers on how to stay safe behind the wheel:
– Consider leaving before the rush hour. If you can’t, wait until after sunset and break your fast before you get into your car – even if you only have a few dates and water before heading out.
– Be aware that many drivers will be tired and impatient. This could lead them to lose concentration and miss their turning or abruptly change lanes or speed.
– Be honest with yourself and do not drive if you feel too tired or ill. Pull over immediately if you feel dizzy.
– Consider using public transport or take a taxi.
Stick to the two-second rule (you should pass the same markers on the road two seconds after the car in front has) to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front.