“If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.” — Pocahontas
This time last year, I had just settled in Dubai. Hot, lost most of the time, and confused about rules for non-Muslims during Ramadan proved to be challenging. It was down right intimidating, and the first few days, I sheltered myself in the comforts of the AC until my husband teased and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I look back at those times and shake my head.
I have now come full circle. It’s hot again. So hot, my glasses fog up every time I walk outside, and there is still one more week of Ramadan…
As a devout Christian, living in a Muslim country during Ramadan initially seemed terrifying! How was I supposed to survive not eating or drinking in public from sunrise to sunset? I can at least have water in public, right? I asked myself these questions, while searching Google for any insight as I mentally prepared myself for what seemed like a harsh reality. Even though there are several noticeable changes, living in Dubai during Ramadan is not as difficult as I previously imagined.
From sunrise to sunset, Muslims enter a time of fasting which means, no food, drinks, smoking, or entertainment. At sunset, normally around 7:15, although it changes daily, they break the fast for dinner which is known as an “Iftar.” Many restaurants around Dubai host their own iftar which is open for all. Muslims normally end their fasting with a date, water, and prayer. At night, they are free to eat as they please and even enjoy a late night meal called a Sahoor. The month of Ramadan (the name of a month based on the lunar calendar) is a special time for Muslims that, in addition to prayer and fasting, includes many dinner gatherings, company events, and even shopping sales all month! With all of the commercial excitement surrounding the month of Ramadan, it reminds me of the month of December as we prepare for Christmas in the United States.
For non-Muslims in Dubai, many restaurants stay open under the condition that all windows must be covered for dine-in. Some restaurants opt to have delivery and take away services only, limiting the dine-in option to after sunset. Last year, while planning to do some work, I took a taxi to one of my favorite coffee shops only to find out that they had take-away services only. They politely packed my coffee in a concealed bag and pointed to the mall’s food court. The food court had a makeshift barricade that non-fasting individuals could enter. Behind those concealed walls, it was as if nothing was different!
Last week, we went to dinner and a movie with friends all before sunset. Like the food court, the movie theater allowed us to purchase popcorn and drinks freely behind the barricade. As a Christian, I appreciate the forethought that goes into making non-Muslim expats comfortable during Ramadan in Dubai.
My husband and I actually love being in Dubai during Ramadan because he gets out of work earlier and I get to spend more time with him!