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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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Expatriate Group & Expatriate Healthcare are trading styles of Strategic Insurance Services Limited who is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). FCA Firm reference Number is 307133. Strategic Insurance Services Limited is authorised to carry on Regulated Activities in accordance with the permissions granted by the FCA under PART IV of the Financial Services and Markets ACT 2000.