This is our 11th Ramadan as an expat family in Dubai. Each year we have learned and appreciated how it can be special for us too.
Looking back, our first Ramadan here was very different. A lot of things freaked me out – no place to buy food; we might get deported if we eat; we can’t go out during the day. Crazy!
Below are some questions we often get asked. This has also been some of my worries when we first moved here.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is considered the holiest time in the Islamic Calendar.
It is a time for prayer, reflection, and religious devotion to cleanse past sins and do good deeds. For 30 days, Muslims wake up before dawn to consume their first meal, called Suhoor; they then refrain from consuming water & food during the day; breaking of fast happens at sunset which is called Iftar.
Are you allowed to eat?
Yes, non-Muslims are allowed to eat at home and outside BUT we should be respectful to those who are fasting by not eating and drinking publicly during the day. Kids are allowed to drink and eat in public but we prefer to do this discreetly.
Can you still buy food or dine at restaurants during the day?
Groceries, food delivery, and some restaurants are open during the day.
To accommodate tourists and residents who are not fasting, malls and some establishment have designated covered area for people to eat. Base on experience, adults are allowed to consume food at the food court by 1pm.
Our friend, Foodiva has compiled a list of restaurants open for daytime dining during Ramadan.
Do you have to wear an abaya when going outside?
No. Everyone is requested to dress modestly – shoulders, chest, and knees should be covered. We have always observed dressing modestly all through out the year.
Are establishments (restaurants/malls) close during the day?
No, it’s business as usual even on Ramadan. Although, plenty has changed timing operations. My husband’s company has shortened working hours. Malls stay open until past midnight.
Do kids get a school holiday during the month?
No. They do however have shortened school timings during the month. School timings start an hour late and end an hour earlier.
Do you need to act differently during the day when out?
Not really, we go about our normal schedule like any other day. It is, however, important to be mindful and remember that Ramadan is a Holy Month. Everyone is asked to dress modestly and behave appropriately – keep music levels to a minimum and of course, no public displays of affection.
Our impression and experience of Ramadan has changed, I can say that this has become one of our favorite time of the year.
To witness first hand the kindness happening around us during this month is a blessing itself. You will often see people distribute meals in time for Iftar, children with their families filling up Ramadan Fridges with water and food that is free for anyone to take. To see people gather around the mosque to have Iftar together is a sight that just fills your heart with love.
Suhoor and Iftar shared with friends we have considered family is a gathering that we will always cherish.
I am extremely grateful that my kids get to grow up here in the Middle East. Living here has taught us to celebrate all religions, all culture, traditions and to respect each persons beliefs.