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Understanding Ramadan and knowing how to behave when you are in the UAE

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is very important because
it is the month of Ramadan. It is culturally significant for all Muslims around
the world and is particularly so in the Emirates. This year, it runs from June
28th to July 27th and usually lasts for 29 or 30 days.

During this holy month, Muslims immerse themselves in their
faith and abstain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset every day.
The Muslim community are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking and having
sex between sunrise and sunset. Even the chewing of gum or listening to loud
music that is not religious is banned. This can be quite a change and shock for
expats living in the UAE.

The morning prayer is taken at sunrise, at approximately 4
or 5am. The evening prayer is taken at sundown, approximately at 7pm although
this does heavily depend on the region.

In the UAE, Ramadan is a matter of law and both Muslims and
non-Muslims are bound by the rules in public places. The country’s official
religion is Islam, so everything is turned upside down during the time of
Ramadan. Even taking a quick sip of water in public is a criminal offence, so
expats living in the country have to be extra vigilant.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an
essential path in the religious and spiritual life of every Muslim. Due to the
fasting times, working hours tend to change. This will impact everyone in Abu
Dhabi and Dubai as typically, the working day is two hours shorter during the
month of Ramadan. Most companies will close early in the afternoon and this is
particularly true for government departments. All these changes can have
important implications for expatriates who need to abide by the new patterns.

Within the confinement of their homes, expats are free to do
whatever they want. They may eat and drink between sunrise and sunset so long as
it is not in public. However, their behaviour should not interfere with the
religious practices of Muslims in the country.

Due to the prohibition of eating and drinking in public
places during the day, many restaurants will close for lunch. Some may remain
open but only under special licenses. These will be easy to spot because all
doors and windows will be covered with curtains or decorative cloth. This way,
the activity inside cannot be viewed from the outside.

Expats may find themselves invited to an Iftar. This is the
meal the marks the breaking of the evening fast each day. It is considered to
be a family event and if you are invited, you should try to attend. Refusing
may come across as impolite. The breaking of the evening fast is also marked by
the firing of cannons so it is not unusual to hear loud, thundering sounds.

The rules may seem quite strict but expats should abide by
them as they are a matter of law. It is important to respect the traditions
when out in public.

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