An Expat's Ramadan survival guide
It’s an auspicious period of heightened spirituality. So it is best for expatriates and visitors to observe more discretion and increased sensitivity. Ramadan nights are usually festive and they start with iftar. Here’s a run-down of simple yet important things expatriates must remember during Ramadan.
During the day
- Eating, chewing gum, drinking and smoking in public during Ramadan is viewed as disrespectful.
- If you’re healthy and able to join the fast, good for you. If not, you may take your own food to work.
- Most restaurants are shut during the day.
- Some establishments designate places where non-Muslims can eat, smoke and drink in the day.
- Be careful about serving refreshments when you have Muslim visitors over.
- In many establishments, work is shortened by two hours during this month.
- Express your wishes for your host’s wellbeing and his family.
- Avoid leaving immediately after the iftar, but be mindful of the call for Isha, the evening prayer, as your host may want to go for prayers then.
- Try to connect with the local cultural scene by attending various events.
- It’s a great time to sample local and regional cuisine.
- Most malls and shopping centres are open till late, or till dawn
- Do not play live music as it is banned throughout the month.
- Drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and may lead to fines and imprisonment.
- Muslims appreciate it when you greet them “Ramadan Kareem”.
- Women are advised to dress modestly, avoid spaghetti straps, above-the-knee skirts and the like.
- Men are expected to dress modestly, avoid bold overtones.
- Cross-dressing is an absolute no-no, whether it’s Ramadan or not.
- Swimsuits are OK only in hotel pools and private beaches.
- Don’t walk in front of someone or a group of people praying.
- Show consideration for those who are observing the fast.
- Avoid getting into arguments or animated/offensive behaviour.
- Give way when a motorist behind seems in a hurry, especially when iftar is approaching.
- Avoid making obscene hand gestures and using foul language.
- Do not point fingers at others as this is considered disrespectful.
- Take prior permission before entering a mosque, if you’re not a Muslim.
- Don’t show the soles of your feet or shoes to someone. It is deemed an insult.
- Illicit relations are punishable, whether it’s Ramadan or not. Unmarried couples living together may end up in jail.
- Public display of affection such as kissing in public is unacceptable and may lead to arrest.