DAWN TO DUSK- ITS RAMADAN TIME or AFTER DAWN
RAMADAN is a very special time in the U.A.E. as it is marks the time that the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed. Based on the lunar calender it generally falls somewhere around August and is marked by a month long fast. It is also known as Ramzan or the Holy Month of Islam.
Most travellers are wary of visiting the U.A.E. during this time because of the strict rules and regulations that this fast entails. But those who do, find it an enthralling experience as they get to witness authentic local culture and traditions. And the bonus is the late nite festivities that one gets to participate in after sunset when the Muslims break their fast and party.
For a span of this entire month, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. If one understands and follows the basic rules to be followed during this month, an avid traveller is assured a wonderful cultural experience.
RULES OF RAMADAN
Eating, drinking, chewing gum, dancing or smoking in public places is strictly forbidden between sunrise and sunset. Also loud music will not be played in public places like malls, clubs or on the street. These rules must be observed by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, or it will be considered an offence that is punsihable by law. Refer to Article 313 that states that punishment can be in the form of a heavy fine or even a month in jail.
Avoid listening to music even on the beach or in the car. If at all you must, then use headphones. You can hear soft music in the privacy of your homes as long as it cannot be heard outside.
However certain areas in luxury hotels will be set apart for non- Muslim guests and visitors to eat in private. As long as they are behind shut doors. Alcohol will not be served and you will be allowed to drink and smoke only after sunset.
The aged, infirm and pregnant are generally excused from this fast.
Blasphemous language will not be tolerated throughout the year but most especially in the month of Ramzan. This will make you liable to severe measures as it is punishable by law. It’s always better to greet each other and everyone you meet saying, “Ramadam Kareem”.
Decent clothing has to be worn throughout the month, so carry conservative clothes rather than those transparent, tightfiitting or revealing ones like minis, sleeveless tops and shorts.
Most tourist attractions like shopping malls, clubs and spas will be open but the timings will change (of course, without the live music). So before you venture out, do check the altered timings.
Also keep in mind the rush hour traffic will now be moving at different time slots as office timings get altered too. Early mornings, afternoons and after sundown is when you should keep the cars off the road due to peak traffic. Most especially at night as people will rush on to the streets to break their fast and enjoy the festivities.
Come nightfall and let the festivities begin. This is called ‘Iftar’ or the breaking of the fast. Most hotels offer Iftar buffets where you can sample exquisite Islamic cuisine. Or head straight to the large tents that offer authentic tradition, delicious Islamic food set amongst traditional music and dance. Here you can even partake of ‘sheesha’ i.e. smoke traditional pipes. Whatever you do, always remember to respect the locals and their belief systems, culture and traditions.
Alcohol will be available only after sundown at all liquor stores, licensed pubs, bars and restaurants. Most nightclubs are closed during this entire month.
It would be sensible to make reservations in advance as most shopping malls, restaurants and hotels tend to be overcrowded.
It would do your soul great good to also contribute something to the poor as well as this is the month of charity, compassion, tolerance, gratitude and goodwill.
Don’t miss EID-AL-FITR, the last 3 days of this month long fast. This is celebrated as a 3 day festival where the locals exchange gifts with their friends and relatives, partake in traditional Arabic cuisine and enjoy special events, games and festivities specially arranged to mark this occasion.
Whatever you do, always remember to respect the locals and their belief systems, culture and traditions.