Celebrating Ramadan respectfully: Tips for non-Muslims in the UAE

  • , by Balikbayan Store
  • 2 min reading time

Muslims across the UAE and around the world embark on a period of fasting from sunrise to sunset, a practice aimed at fostering empathy for the less fortunate and focusing on faith. For those experiencing their first Ramadan in the UAE or for non-Muslims seeking to navigate this period respectfully, here are essential dos and don'ts.

Do Respect Fasting Hours: During daylight, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, or smoking. Non-Muslims should also avoid these activities in public out of respect for those fasting. Violating this can lead to fines or more severe penalties, though enforcement is rare. It's acceptable to eat, drink, or smoke in private or designated areas.

Don’t Eat or Drink in Public: Visible consumption of food or beverages, including water, or smoking in public during fasting hours is prohibited. However, these actions are allowed in private or in areas set aside for non-fasters, like some restaurants and cafes. At work, companies often provide a separate room for non-fasting employees to eat.

Do Dress Modestly: Ramadan calls for modest dressing for both men and women. While swimwear is permissible at public beaches and hotel pools, general public attire should be less revealing and more conservative than at other times of the year.

Don’t Play Loud Music: Respect the contemplative nature of Ramadan by avoiding loud music in public spaces. Use headphones, especially during prayer times or the call to prayer.

Do Engage with the Community: Non-Muslims are encouraged to participate in iftar (the meal after sunset) and suhoor (pre-dawn meal) gatherings if invited. It's also an excellent time to engage in charitable activities or volunteer work, reflecting the spirit of giving that characterizes Ramadan.

Don’t Overlook Children and the Elderly: Children and the elderly are exempt from fasting, and allowances are made for them to eat and drink in public. Be mindful of their needs during this time.

Do Observe Public Decorum: Ramadan is a time of peace and piety. Avoid public displays of affection, loud and disruptive behavior, and dressing inappropriately. These actions are considered disrespectful during the holy month.

Don’t Forget to Explore Cultural Aspects: The UAE lights up during Ramadan with decorative street lights, and many hotels and large homes host iftar tents. Non-Muslims can explore these aspects of Ramadan culture, including attending iftar cannons at parks or mosques, which mark the end of the fasting day.

Do Practice Patience and Understanding: Mistakes happen, and if you inadvertently eat or drink in public, a sincere apology is often appreciated. Ramadan also emphasizes patience, and most people are forgiving of genuine errors.

By following these dos and don'ts, non-Muslims can contribute to the communal spirit of Ramadan, respecting the traditions and practices of their Muslim friends and neighbors while experiencing the cultural richness of this sacred month.

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