Ramadan Kareem

Depending on the moon, Ramadan is set to start next Thursday. Ramadan Kareem! Until a few years ago, I didn’t know much about thia holy month of the Islamic calendar. Sure, I worked with Muslims in the UK. They fasted during daylight. Fasting is one of the 5 pillars or religious duties of Islam. I’m only realising now how challenging fasting in a non-Muslim country must be. Unlike in the Middle East, everyone still eats and drinks in the office, there’re no reduced working hours and we had about 18 hours of day light (= fasting time). Not an easy undertaking.

Ramadan is the most important month for Muslims. In simple terms (and without starting a religious debate), Ramadan is probably as important as Christmas for Christians and Diwali for Hindus. With the expected start next week, it’s high time to get ready for it:

  1. If you’re a non-Muslim living in the Middle East, the same rules about eating and drinking in public apply to you as for Muslims. You cannot eat or drink in public during daylight. You can still drink in your home or private places. Find out which restaurants and coffee shops will be open for non-fasters during Ramadan. Their blinds will be pulled down and may appear as closed from the outside. Check Timeout and What’s On for a list of open restaurants.
  2. Check with your work place what the office rules about working hours, eating and drinking are. Some office change their hours. Some restrict eating and drinking to only certain areas (e.g. the cafeteria). If you’re allowed to eat and drink at your desk, ask your Muslim colleagues if it’s also okay with them. A number of my Muslim colleagues don’t mind it as long as it’s not coffee (too tempting).
  3. When choosing your clothes, be even more respectful than usual. Cover your shoulders. Don’t put those hot pants on.
  4. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for reflection, inner peace and reading the Holy Quran . If you’re a non-Muslim, take this quieter time to recharge your batteries, find your inner balance and start meditating.
  5. If you’re new to the Middle East, check out centres like the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Here, you learn first-hand about Ramadan and Islam. If you live outside the Middle East, why not read more about Ramadan where you are?
  6. Iftar meals, the first meal after sunset, are great to get together with friends and family. Time Out, Expat Echo and Expat Woman provide overviews of Iftar meals and deals.
  7. Fasting can be tiring in this heat. Drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine and fizzy drinks. Eat fresh produce and avoid fatty, fried foods. You can find more tips about healthy fasting here. If you’re a non-faster, why not try it for a day?
  8. Stay fit and healthy during this special month and the summer. Take part in (light) sports activities. Dubai Sports World lets you and your friends be active in their air conditioned halls.
  9. A lot of activities will now take place in the evenings. The Ramadan Night Market at Dubai World Trade Centre runs from 2-11 July and 350 exhibitors take you into a different world.
  10. Ramadan encourages more participation in charity events. Volunteer in the UAE allows you to find a cause that fits you. Even if you’re not living in a Muslim country, what charities can you support? You can donate your time or pledge financial support. Check out my post about making over your closet and donating clothes in good conditions to Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Use the next week to prepare mentally for Ramadan. Share your experience with us and leave a comment.

All the best,

Agni

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