As one of the world’s most exciting cities, Dubai is known for its luxurious hotels, world-class shopping, and unrivalled quality of life. Yet, beyond the spectacular skyline and picturesque beaches, Dubai’s cultural identity is deeply connected to Arabian culture.
Visiting Dubai during Ramadan gives tourists unique opportunities to experience century-old traditions and unrivalled Emirati hospitality. But what about the people who live and work in Dubai? We want to find out first-hand what life is like for our UAE team during this time.
My initial years celebrating Ramadan in Dubai
As an Indian familiar with the Islamic calendar, I had a good understanding of why and how Ramadan is celebrated. However, I found it difficult to discuss the cultural complexities of this holy holiday with my international colleagues.
I found the best place to start was to help them understand how the Hiraj or Islamic calendar works and how it differs from the Gregorian calendar.
What is the Hijri Calendar?
The Hijri calendar is the Islamic calendar that Muslims use to determine religious events and observance dates. Based on lunar months, the Hijri calendar has 354 or 355 days, and religious dates can vary yearly. Hence, Ramadan arrives 11 days earlier every subsequent year of the Gregorian calendar.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year in Islamic culture. The ninth month of the lunar year marks the ‘Laylat Al Qadar’ or ‘night of power' when the Quran is revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
During this holy time, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, increase prayer, and practice self-reflection.
In Dubai, you can see the pace of the city change as people mark the Holy Month through prayers, fasting and togetherness. However, if you're in Dubai during this special time, you will see another side of the city and experience authentic Arabian culture.
To better understand the rituals of Ramadan, here's what a typical day during the Holy Month involves:
Suhoor: the early meal
In preparation for a day of fasting that begins with the morning adhaan, or "call to prayer," Muslims gather before dawn to pray and participate in suhoor.
Siyam: the fast
The hours of fasting are called siyam, which means "to refrain." Muslims are required to avoid eating, drinking, and smoking between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan.
Iftar: breaking the fast
The city comes to a halt as the sun sets (Maghrib prayer) until the roar of cannons signals the end of the fast and the proclamation of Iftar. People break their fast with a sip of water and some dates. At dusk, twinkling Arabesque decorations come aglow all over the city throughout the Holy Month.
Ramadan etiquette: do’s and don’ts
Embrace the community spirit and wish a blessed Ramadan Mubarak to Muslim friends and colleagues.
Accept food and drink when offered during Iftar - it is a sign of mutual respect and friendliness.
Be considerate. During Ramadan, working hours are cut by two hours, meaning service levels may be reduced.
Try fasting for a day. It’s an excellent way to show empathy and understand what your Muslim friends and colleagues are going through this month.
Become a night owl. The city will be so much more alive and thriving once the sun has set, so adjust your body clock if you want to take advantage of everything happening during the month.
Even if you're not Muslim, eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours is prohibited.
Playing loud may offend those who are fasting. Listening through headphones is allowed if it is not audible to the people around you.
Restaurants across Dubai will become busier as families and friends meet to break their fasts. Don’t leave dinner reservations until the last minute.
Ramadan is a month of peace and serenity. Avoid debates, arguments or swearing in public.
Most bars and clubs in Dubai will be closed during Ramadan, and those that remain open will only serve alcohol once the sun has set.
Try not to be overwhelmed by these rules. Ramadan is a time of introspection where individuals can celebrate their faith and community as one. Faith, prayer, and charity are pillars of one of the Islamic world's most sacred and spiritual times.
Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr
Eid Al Fitr marks the end of this blissful month. Eid Al Fitr, also known as the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’.
When is Eid Al Fitr?
Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon phases. This means Eid will fall around April 21-22. The moon-sighting committee will confirm the date in the final days of Ramadan.
Why is Eid-al-Fitr celebrated?
Eid-al-Fitr is a time to celebrate, with Muslims gathering their friends and family to show gratitude toward God following the previous month of reflection. The holiday serves as a poignant reminder for Muslims to be grateful for what they have and to share with those who may be less fortunate.
What are the traditional Eid foods?
In Dubai, ouzi is the Eid dish of choice. It features meat, usually goat or sheep, marinated in a medley of spices before being slow cooked for hours. Other popular dishes include the harees meat porridge and machboos with spiced chicken or fish mixed with long grain rice.
Ramadan in Dubai will be a fantastic experience, with the city coming alive with a vibrant energy and spirit of hospitality.
We look forward to sharing our experiences with the global 3S Money team and domestic UAE clients.