On the highway to Musandam in Ras al Khaimah, auto-repair shops work until 3am during Ramadan
Business in Ramadan: RAK's auto-repair shops in overdrive during deadly time of year for motorist
Tents, dates and Vimto may be the trade that comes to mind when it’s Ramadan, but it is not only a season for joy – it is also a month of fender benders.
Long nights and empty belies make Ramadan a perilous time for drivers – the month is one of the deadliest times of year for motorists. Sixteen people died during the first half of this year's holy month, and last year there were 26 roads deaths in Ramadan.
Minor collisions and crashes are a Ramadan routine as people battle fatigue, thirst, hunger and irregular hours. For auto-repair shops, this makes the holy month a money maker.
On the highway to Musandam in Ras al Khaimah, auto-repair shops work until 3am during Ramadan. Dozens of mechanic and auto-repair shops line Oman Street and every one of them does a thriving trade at midnight.
In addition to repairs from Ramadan crashes, shorter office hours in Ramadan give customers a chance to do auto-work that they cannot make time for during the rest of the year.
“It’s not more profit but it’s easier work,” said Omar Farooq, the owner of Punjab Auto Electric on Oman Street. “We only work at night and the profit stays the same.”
Garages do not always report an immediate increase in business. The small dents and ticks from Ramadan collisions are repaired throughout the year as people prepare to renew their car’s registration. Vehicles that are scratched, dented, dirty or otherwise blemished quickly fail costly renewal tests and so these Ramadan dents translate into eventual business.
“If you have a small accident, you’re still running your car until they are seeking to renew,” said Ejaz Hameed, a sales clerk at Al Sabah Spare Auto Parts. “That’s Ras al Khaimah. They will fix their car only when it’s time for registration.”
Driving in Ramadan is the equivalent of driving in the fog, said Fareed Lutfi, the secretary general of Emirates Insurance.
“It has a psychological effect on people and it changes peoples’ driving behaviour. It’s hunger and thirst. There are traffic jams all over the place. [Crashes] increase because everybody is bumper to bumper.”
It is not just the hour before iftar that is problematic but in the morning when people are rushing to work. With people staying up late and taking breakfast before 4am, many try to maximise their time in bed in the morning and sleep in. This leaves everyone rushing to work at the same time.
“Most of the accidents happen in the morning because people tend to stay out late at night and then they’re rushing in the morning,” said Mr Lufti. “Everybody starts work at nine in the morning and everybody wants to get to the office and people seldom make it on time.”
Mohideen Mohammed, the supervisor at one Oman Street mechanic shop puts it like this: “In Ramadan, everyone is sleeping, no?” For him, this translates to a 5 per cent increase on his regular business.
Fortunately, the number of crashes in Ramadan have declined due to increased patrols and road safety awareness programmes, said Colonel Marwan Al Mansoori.
“Social media has helped a lot to get our message everywhere,” said Col Al Mansoori, the head of public relations and moral guidance for the RAK Police. “All people use it, all nationalities, all ages, men and women and this has helped us.”
He notes that one of the most important skills motorists can master is the practice of patience, a virtue extolled in the Quran.
Until this virtue is mastered by motorists, the mechanics of Oman Road will be ready to help.