Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates
Ramadan started last night (Friday).
Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims. They do not eat, drink any liquid (technically they’re not even supposed to swallow their own saliva) or smoke when the sun is up. They are supposed to rise early before sun-up to have their first meal. Once the sun sets, they enjoy Iftar (a huge evening meal) and often stay up late (or all night) enjoying time together and eating.
Children, the ill, women who are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding and those traveling are not supposed to fast. However, as I understand, the menstruating women and the travelers are supposed to make-up later for every day missed, a day for a day. Also, during this month many Muslims increase their alms giving and generosity.
As Islam is a state religion, many things change around here for the month. Many restaurants are closed until sunset. Some will pay an extra fee to the municipality to stay open, however, they are only allowed to serve delivery and take out until sunset. Those of us that are not fasting are still not allowed to eat, drink, smoke and chew gum in public until sunset. At my work, water coolers are taken out of the hallways. We are only allowed to eat and drink in the staff lounge.
And, we have shortened hours. Our work day is only 6 hours during Ramadan.
There was an article in today’s Khaleej Times about some who are upset about the commercialization of Ramadan. And it is clear that it is becoming somewhat commercialized. There are many ads for many products that are focused around Ramadan. I saw that Pringles is having a 15% off Ramadan sale at the nearby grocery store. KFC is advertising its Ramadan Value Meal. Capitalism and religion can be a dangerous combination. Just look what we’ve done to Christmas.
So, there are many changes around here for a month until Ramadan ends with Eid al Fitr, at which point I’ll get 2-3 days off work for the holiday.
I look forward to talking to more Muslims and understanding their devotion and their different experiences and views of Ramadan and Islam.