Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims and is observed widely through Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates. We visited Dubai right before Ramadan, it actually began the day we flew out of Dubai. If you’re visiting the UAE during Ramadan for the first time it can be confusing and even a little confronting. It’s a good idea to do a little bit of research to know what you can and can’t do to avoid getting into trouble. Penalties can be much harsher than you think and you don’t want to take the risk or be disrespectful to they country’s culture.
What is Ramadan?
While we have all heard of Ramadan before, you may not actually know it’s significance to the Muslim culture. Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar and is considered the Muslim holy month, marked by daily fasting which includes no food and no water from sunrise to sunset for the whole 30 days. It is a time for prayer and self-reflection and as well as fasting Muslims refrain from smoking, bad behaviour (including gossiping, swearing and fighting) and impure thoughts. Ramadan is observed through the whole of the United Arab Emirates.
What does this mean for you?
Ramadan is an extremely quiet time of the year in the UAE, with most locals using the month to pray and reflect throughout their fasting. It is likely that many parts of the cities will be closed, including restaurants and some shopping places. The streets are much quieter and many people remain indoors. Major attractions and shopping centres will still be open and hotel restaurants do cater to Western tourists who are not fasting. Some tours and activities will be altered a little during the month of Ramadan, for example alcohol will not be available to purchase during this period.
What should you be aware of?
While many of the hotels and resorts will accommodate non-fasting visitors, it is very important to you follow the public rules of Ramadan. You can not consume food or drink liquids in public places between sunrise and sunset, which includes on the street, in shopping centers and attractions, in buses and taxis and at the beach. Additionally you can not smoke, swear, argue or fight or listen to music in public areas.
Will it effect your experience?
The short answer is no, but I guess the long answer is that it might if you let it. Attractions are less crowded during this period which can be a much better experience with no lines or waiting time. We went to Wild Wadi Waterpark one day before Ramadan began and it was almost deserted. There were no lines for the rides or the food stalls and everything was still open and running as normal. Many of the restaurants and cafes in public areas and shopping centers will most likely be closed but you can find lots of options in the hotels and resorts. Check with your hotel staff and the internet before visiting Mosques or Muslim sights, as they might have revised opening hours to accommodate for people praying.
How to stay out of trouble
Be aware of your actions and what you’re saying and doing when you’re in public. Make sure you don’t eat or drink and always be respectful if someone gives you instructions or advice. You can still have a fantastic time visiting the UAE during Ramadan and visit everything the country has to offer. Be respectful at all times.
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