Ramadan FAQs: Everything you need to know about the holy month in the UAE
Spending your first Ramadan in the UAE or just need to brush up on a few dos and don’ts? We have you covered:
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. It is the most holy month in the calendar for Muslims as it is believed the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan. During this month, Muslims do not consume any food or liquid between fajr and maghrib prayers (at dawn and sunset), not even water.
What else are you supposed to do during Ramadan?
Ramadan isn’t just about fasting from food, it is primarily about being more pious and seeking spiritual closeness to God. Some Muslims spend more time in the mosque during the holy month or read the Quran. Ramadan is a time when Muslims should think less about materialistic things and focus more on charity, patience and being grateful.
What is iftar? What do Muslims traditionally eat during Ramadan?
Iftar is when Muslims break their fast. This is done when the sun sets, at Maghrib. It is said the Prophet Mohammed would break his fast with a date or/and a glass of water before praying, then sitting down for a light meal. Those observing Ramadan are advised to follow a similar pattern by eating something light, taking a break, then eating again. This stops people from overeating and avoids overwhelming the stomach.
What is Suhour? What do Muslims do before the crack of Dawn?
Suhour is when Muslims eat again before dawn. Many hotels offer suhour, which involves staying up late and eating into the early morning. All eating and drinking must stop at imsak, 10 minutes before dawn (fajr).
What are the prayer timings for Ramadan in the UAE?
Scroll to the bottom of this article. We’ve listed the prayer timings for Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as they are different.
Working hours and public transport information:
What are my working hours during Ramadan?
The UAE Labour Law provides that working hours should be reduced by two hours per day during Ramadan and does not differentiate between fasting and non-fasting employees. But working hours will differ depending on if you work in the private or public sector.
Here’s what our Workplace Doctor says:
Are public transport operating hours and parking timings different in Ramadan?
Yes, here’s links to what is changing:
Do shops open during fasting hours?
Yes, however restaurants will be closed. Almost all shops will be closed the hour before and a couple of hours after sunset, so make sure to call to find out when Ramadan hours are. After Iftar, almost everywhere will be open.
Are all malls operating as usual?
Malls are open during the day and for an extra hour or two at night. Closing times might be as late as midnight or 1am, but it changes from one mall to another.
Can visitors, tourists or non-Muslim residents buy alcohol or go to clubs or pubs during Ramadan?
Some nightclubs will close for Ramadan. Bars, pubs and lounges will generally remain open but will only serve alcohol after sunset. Live or loud music is also not played in bars and pubs.
Do all restaurants stop serving food to residents and visitors even if they are non-Muslims? Where can people who don’t fast get their lunch?
Some restaurants and cafes close during the day until sunset although most will have a closed off area and remain open discretely for non-fasters. These restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will remain open. Supermarkets stay open throughout the day. Takeaway food can also be delivered. Some hotels have a restaurant available where non-fasters can eat and room service remains available.
Ramadan rules and obligations:
Am I allowed to eat, drink or smoke in public during fasting hours?
No, during fasting hours, even non-Muslims are expected to follow the rules of fasting. You are allowed to eat, drink and smoke in private. During work, companies are required to provide an eating room away from those fasting. You can drink water at the gym and at private beaches but be mindful when going to and from the carpark. You should also avoid chewing gum in public because it is seen as eating. The key is to be discreet.
Can people eat, drink or smoke in the car?
Yes but only if the interior of the car is not visible. However it is best to be discreet. If it is seen in public it is considered a crime.
If children are exempt from fasting, can they eat in public?
Yes, this is allowed.
Can people kiss on cheeks or hug their partner or friends of the opposite sex in public during Ramadan?
As at other times of the year — but especially during Ramadan — people should avoid demonstrative acts of affection in public. This can cause offence.
Do I need to be careful about what I wear during Ramadan?
Men and women are expected to dress more modestly during Ramadan. Revealing and tight clothing should be avoided. Women should keep cleavage, knees and shoulders covered out of respect. This includes when people are heading for a night out. Swimwear is still acceptable at public beaches, beach parks and hotel pools, which will all be open as usual.
Should I refrain from cracking jokes or making pranks during Ramadan?
Non-Muslims should consider whether they have Muslim friends who are fasting around them before using strong language or making jokes that could be deemed inappropriate.
What happens if I forget it’s Ramadan and I accidentally eat or drink in public?
It’s not the end of the world, just try not to do it again and hope nobody was offended. Ramadan is also about practising patience so people are usually pretty forgiving about mistakes.
If I am flying into the UAE during Ramadan can I bring alcohol with me?
Yes, as long as it doesn’t exceed the Duty Free allowance.
It’s my birthday during Ramadan, can I invite people who are fasting?
You can, it would probably be more fun for them if the celebrations were after iftar and also don’t be offended if your Muslim friends chose not to attend. If the party is before iftar, make it clear that there will be food and drinks served so they can decline if they would be uncomfortable.
Help, I’ve been invited to an Iftar - what do I do?
Do I need to bring food or gifts?
It’s not a prerequisite but it’s never wrong to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home. Arrive 10 to 15 minutes before Maghrib and a box of dates or sweets in hand won’t go amiss!
Can non-Muslim residents or tourists go to Ramadan tents at Iftar or Suhour times?
Yes they can, but it is best not to leave dinner reservations until the last minute because restaurants across the country can become much busier as families meet to break the fast together.
I heard charity plays a big part during Ramadan. What obligations do Muslims have to fulfil?
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an obligation for whoever passes a certain criteria of wealth. During Ramadan, Muslims tend to give more to charity and people are invited to enter into the spirit of giving.
Can non-Muslims contribute to charities during Ramadan?
Yes of course.
Further Ramadan reading + links
Need help to pass the time? Ramadan shows are where it’s at: Ramadan TV highlights you won’t want to miss
Or spend some time at the cinema: New movies screening during Ramadan 2017
It is important to stay healthy during the holy month:
Make sure you stay safe on the roads: Most dangerous driving time in UAE during Ramadan revealed