Dubai is a state within the UAE, and the UAE is a Muslim country. If anyone didn’t know that, go home now. With the holy month of Ramadan on the horizon (scheduled for around the 6th June this year), things in the vibrant, bustling city are going to be changing.
For those who are not Muslim and have never before been here at this time, but intend to stick around in the country for it, here are some tips for how to behave and what to expect from Ramadan in Dubai. These will ensure you remain respectful to the culture and traditions of the place in which you live. It’s important:
During the daylight hours, you must not do the following in public:
No dancing in the streets whatsoever, not that it’s a common occurrence, but just in case.
No karaoke, no singing along with the Taylor in your headphones, no taking your guitar to the beach etc…
Basically you can’t drink any fluids at all during the day in public, so it goes without saying that you can’t be drunk. When it comes to sunset, some of the bars do remain open during Ramadan, and open maybe from about 8pm, but it’s not a standard night. No discernible music, not much of an atmosphere. All the clubs shut down. Some people choose to gather at people’s houses, but maybe it would be a good idea to use the month of Ramadan to help your body recover from the abuse you put it through for the other 11 months of the year, yeah?
Play Loud Music
The main radio stations become even more non-descript than usual, some even shut down I think. Not a big listener, so it makes no real difference to me either way. But don’t play loud music that can be heard externally from your house, your car, or your headphones.
Wear Revealing Clothes
This goes for men too. When I first came here it was in Ramadan, and I was wearing some of my own cut-off denim numbers to the Mall of the Emirates (they are short). I wasn’t exactly wondering why everyone was staring at me as I’m used to the Beatlemania that generally follows me around, but my more experienced friend later informed me that if I had worn those jean short things to the mall for serious, I need to be examined by men in white coats. Be even more conservative than you think you should be. That’s the best way to think about it, even if you’re going out to listen to no music in a bar after dark.
Don’t drink any fluids in public at any time, even in your car, even at the beach, even round by your pool.
Chewing gum is also forbidden.
Restaurants and takeaways are all open, but are either behind curtains, or only offer take-out. Either way, don’t be eating in your car or anywhere in public view until Iftar (this is an evening meal eaten after sunset during the holy month).
Swearing is quite a bad thing to do at any time of the year, but especially during Ramadan.
Other Stuff You Should Know:
If you have any Muslim colleagues or friends, say “Ramadan Kareem” to them. This kinda means “generous Ramadan” if translated literally, but it’s OK because it just generally means that you are wishing them the best during their holy month.
Office hours usually change during Ramadan, unless you work in a boiler room, so you can expect to be working from about 8am or 9am until 3pm or 4pm.
Driving around the time of sunset is dangerous and a nightmare. Not only do you have a load of mad drivers who haven’t eaten all day speeding to get to the nearest place they serve an Iftar, traffic is also really bad too, more than usual. Stay in.
Everything happens at night. The malls are open later during this month, and are rammed. So are restaurants. If you are in the city and you want to go out in the evening to eat, it’s probably a good idea to book ahead.
Many people who are not practicing Muslims choose this time of year to take their holidays, returning to their home country to visit their families and friends, while escaping the intensified heat. So if you are planning this, book your flight early as the airports are most definitely rammed during Ramadan.
Most of all, respect your colleagues, friends and the rest of the people around you during this month. It’s a time for Muslims to reflect, practice self-discipline, self-control, and to cleanse their soul. Something in which we would all do well to participate, in our own unique way too…