Across the world Muslims are preparing to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, and this will have a particular impact on anyone living and working throughout the Gulf region.
Whether your preparing to spend your first Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait or Qatar, or you’re just interested in how a move will impact your life, we’ve put together a little guide of five things to know.
1 - When is it?
Ramadan 2018 is expected to start on Thursday May 17, almost two weeks earlier than last year, although the official date is yet to be confirmed. When it begins Muslims will fast during daylight hours until the first day of Eid Al Fitr, currently scheduled to fall on June 15.
2 - Reduced Working Hours
Across the region most people will work reduced hours during the holy month, with the UAE imposing a maximum six hour day rule on everyone. This isn’t always the case throughout the region, and some employers may expect non-Muslim employees to work as normal, however most will benefit from earlier closing times.
Make sure that you plan any shopping trips, or administrative appointments, around the reduced hours - as things can get hectic.
3 - Everything Happens at Night
With fasts only allowed to be broken once the sun has set, major cities like Dubai, Riyadh, Doha and Muscat come alive when darkness falls. Restaurants are often booked up well in advance, with families coming together to celebrate the end of the day with a large meal.
Depending on the sunset times this can make the city centre a bustling hive of activity in the small hours of the morning!
4 - Don’t Eat in Public During Daylight Hours
Whilst Ramadan obviously isn’t mandatory for everyone, it’s best that non-Muslims avoid eating in public during the month. This includes using chewing gum, and when driving your car. Many employers will set aside a special room for non-Muslim employees to have lunch in, however if that isn’t available we’d always recommend speaking to senior management before eating at work.
It’s unlikely that you’ll face any issues, as tolerance is heavily preached during the month, however it shows respect for the culture you’re now part of.
5 - Music
Almost everyone knows the rules around eating during Ramadan, however far fewer are aware of the customs surrounding music and dancing. Playing music loudly during daylight hours will be frowned upon, and we’d recommend quietly using headphones to get round the issue.
If you live in a gated compound then playing music around the house won’t be an issue, however if you’re living in a mainly local neighbourhood it’s best to keep the stereo turned off!