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Ramadan is a culturally significant event in the Emirates. It is a month in which Muslims globally take time to reflect on their faith, most obviously manifested through daily fasting for the duration of the Holy Month. In the UAE, this means the Muslim community does not eat, drink, smoke, chew, or have anything apart from medicine pass their lips from sunrise to sunset.
In the UAE, public observance of Ramadan is a matter of law. Muslims and non-Muslims alike are banned from consumption of any kind in public places. Whilst those who aren’t aware of these laws and take a sip of water in public are rarely arrested, taking that sip of water is a criminal offence.
To help you navigate your first UAE Ramadan, we have listed below some of the most important considerations.
- Eating / drinking / smoking / chewing in public is illegal between the sound of the morning prayer (approx. 4-5am), and the sound of the evening prayer (approx. 6:30-7:15pm)
- If you are invited to an Iftar you should try to attend. This is the name of the meal that breaks the fast each evening and is considered a family event in most cases. To refuse might be considered impolite.
- You may also be invited to a Suhoor; this is a meal that usually starts at 2am. It is polite to respond to the invitation, even if you are unable to attend.
- Working hours will change, with many companies closing early in the afternoon. This is especially the case for government departments.
- Be aware of and sympathetic to your Muslim contacts, most of whom will be adjusting to the late nights and daily fasting.
- Not all restaurants close. Some, under special licenses, cover windows and doors with curtains or decorative coverings that prevent things being seen from outside
There are many UAE laws which seek to protect the cultural identity of the country, however the UAE is progressive and its people appreciate that not all residents are Muslims, and not all will be fasting. Please be aware of people around you, and if you are not sure what is permissible during Ramadan, send us an email and ask!