Ramadan is the ninth month of the year in the Islamic lunar calendar and one of the 5 pillars of Islam. This is the period of compulsory fasting, intense prayer and charity donations, lasting 29 or 30 days. Ramadan is celebrated to pay tribute to the occasion when ayats of Quran were revealed by Allah (SWT) to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for the first time.
During Ramadan, Muslims are prohibited from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Children under 12, pregnant or breastfeeding women, travelers, diabetics and people who are unwell are exempt from fasting.
Some of the prohibitions affect non-Muslim residents and visitors of the UAE. For example, many cafés and restaurants are closed during the day, and it is forbidden to consume food and beverages in public places (including water, chewing gum and smoking. Alcohol is prohibited even in bars during Ramadan (although there are exceptions in Dubai). Also, during the fast, it is not customary to listen to loud music, with the exception of religious songs.
Important! Article 313 of the UAE's Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 provides punishment for violating the rules of Ramadan. Moreover, it applies not only to Muslims, but also to those who do not practice Islam, including foreign tourists. Those who eat or drink in public during the fasting times may face imprisonment for up to a month or a fine of up to AED 1,000 (USD 272). Non-Muslims can only dine inside a cafe or hotel. But it is worth noting that during Ramadan many catering establishments are closed during the day.
In 2021, to provide support for the lockdown-hit tourism industry, Dubai has created a less restrictive environment for non-fasting guests during Ramadan. This means restaurants that operate during fasting hours, can remove the screens and partitions around tables that were originally installed by law. Bars were also allowed to open, but the ban on loud music is to remain.
Each day of Ramadan, immediately after sunset and the call to evening prayer, the breaking of the fast begins - Iftar (literal translation means "breaking fast"). This is a time to meet with family and friends, and non-Muslims can also take part in the ceremony. Many restaurants and hotels in the UAE offer a variety of Iftar menus from traditional oriental dishes to european and national cuisine.
Traditionally, during Iftar, large tables and tents with treats for the poor are set up next to mosques. But in 2021, these were banned in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
During Ramadan, the working day is usually shortened whilst still maintaining full wages. This applies to non-Muslim employees as well. In 2021, government agencies worked during Ramadan from 9am to 2pm. And in the private sector, the working day during period of fasting is reduced by 2 hours.
Ramadan ends with one of the largest public holidays in the UAE – Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated the next day after the appearance of the crescent moon in the sky, and is the beginning of the tenth month in the Islamic calendar – Shawwal. Usually, the authorities announce several days off in honour of this event with transport and shopping centers extending their working hours. On this holiday, Muslims attend mosques for Eid prayer. Sometimes prayers are held in the streets, sports arenas or other places that can accommodate large numbers of workshippers.
Local communities often arrange shared meals and children's parties, while Muslims give each other gifts and give to charity for those in need. On Eid al-Fitr holidays, fireworks, shows, dance performances, concerts and other festive events take place in Dubai and other emirates around the country.
In addition, on the eve of the holiday, sales are held in shopping centers. Water parks and other entertainment venues often offer discounts to mark the occasion as well.