DUBAI // Stringent public health and safety regulations for Ramadan tents will be strictly enforced this year in an effort to prevent tragedies such as the deadly fire at a wedding in Kuwait last year, civic officials said.
Dubai Municipality will deploy officers to inspect tents during the Muslim holy month to ensure there are no violations. Offenders face fines ranging from Dh1,000 for minor offences, such as smoking in a tent, to Dh50,000 for major violations, which include setting up a tent without proper permits and allowing unlicensed activities. "We will apply stringent regulations for Ramadan tents to ensure that visitors are safe and there are no hazards," said Dawood al Hajri, the head of the municipality's planning department. "Our regulations have been in place and this year municipal inspectors will work round the clock to check on these structures in various parts of the city."
The safety regulations were introduced last year following a fire in a wedding tent in Kuwait that killed 57 women and children. While the fire was an arson attack, people were trapped due to a lack of fire exits and safety measures. Smoking cigarettes and shisha will be banned inside small private tents, while hotels setting up larger and more luxurious tents must seek special permission for serving shisha, Mr al Hajri said. Cooking will not be permitted in any kind of tent.
"We have received several applications over the last three weeks and are in the process of processing them," he said of the shisha permits. "These tents have to be constructed as per regulations and inside the applicant's property." Still, the general ban on shisha has upset several residents who enjoyed smoking in the tents. "I have been doing this for several years and have never seen any safety problem," said Abdulah Hanif, a Pakistani marketing officer based in Dubai. "I think shisha should be permitted as it is part of the activities in Ramadan tents."
The regulations also require that sufficient fire extinguishers be provided in the tents, and that emergency exits be clearly marked. Lighting inside tents should be clear and air-conditioning units must be placed at a distance from the tent, while food has to be stored inside as per hygiene standards. Food heating devices are not be permitted inside the tent area. The regulations are likely to be more important than ever as demand for Ramadan tents has risen this year. With just over two weeks left until the start of the holy month, tents have started to be erected in hotels, restaurants as wells as private villas.
"This year's been good so far and the business has already picked up by around 30 per cent in comparison to last year," said Shakil Ahmed, the general manager of Mumtaz Tents, which is setting up luxury Ramadan shelters at the Dubai Aviation Club, Dubai Media City and the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi. "People will be inside these tents, which makes fire safety a high priority for us," he said. "The tents we provide are fireproof and equipped with fire alarms."
However, smaller companies are more likely to suffer financially because of the cost of complying with the safety regulations. The expense involved may tempt them to break the rules. "Any adjustment to the laws generally will have a knock-on effect on cost as investment is required to comply," said Jonathan Hills, the general manager for structures at Harlequin Marquees and Event Services. "I am convinced there are others out there who do not adopt such a welcoming attitude to the standards. These companies will try to cut corners, which potentially can put lives at risk."