An Expat Guide to Ramadan

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An expat guide to Ramadan

With the holy month of Ramadan coming to an end we take a look at the ways a western expat can get by in a Muslim country. There are plenty of dos and don’ts to adhere to during the Muslim holy month, and to some Westerners the traditions held during it can seem strange and confusing. Ramadan can be a great time for Expats living in the UAE or other Muslim country to immerse themselves into the local culture.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Under the calendar a year is either 354 days or 355 days long, currently the Islamic year is 1434.  The holy month sees Muslims worldwide fast for the month. During the fasting period Muslims refrain from eating food, drinking liquids, smoking, and other pleasures.  Fasting lasts from dawn until sunset with food and drink being served before sunrise and after sunset.

The month is a time of heightened spirituality for Muslims, so expats living in Muslim nations should be discrete as they go about their days.

What to do in the day

During Ramadan days you will notice that Muslims do not eat or drink, for some this can be a pretty tough period so expats are encouraged to not eat, drink or smoke whilst out in public as during Ramadan this is seen as disrespectful. Most restaurants will shut during the holy month and if you tend to eat food at your workplace you will need to bring in your own grub. Some places designate places where non-Muslims can eat and drink during the day.

What to do at night

Nights during Ramadan are a stark comparison to the day. They are festive and a time for meals. If you get invited to an iftar (time when the fast is broken) then there are some rules you should be aware of.

Make sure to express your wishes for the wellbeing for your host and their family.

Don’t play live music as its banned during Ramadan.

Muslims appreciate it when you greet them “Ramadan Kareem”.

Drinking alcohol is likely to be illegal.

Other things to be aware of:

Muslims countries often have a set of rules that must be observed by all parties whether a local or not. These include dressing modestly and showing respect.

During Ramadan and even other times try to avoid walking in front of people praying.

Do not point at people as it is classed as very disrespectful.

When eating always use your right handDon’t show the soles of your feet as its classed as an insult.

Basically as long as you are mindful of people around you and keep a low profile then Ramadan can be an enjoyable cultural experience for expats.

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