It’s OK for youngsters to eat and drink anywhere, although it’s still a nice idea to keep it discreet. Many restaurants shut their doors until Iftar, but some eateries will continue to operate behind screens, so you can pop in somewhere for a quick bite if they’re getting grouchy.
During Ramadan, schools are legally only allowed to be open between 8.30am and 2pm, so you’ll need to think about childcare if you’re working. This is mainly because, although there are no set rules on the age at which Muslim children should start fasting, most will be doing so by the age of 12 and many start doing half-day fasts at a younger age so they can practise and not feel left out.
Ramadan is a great time to teach your children how to be supportive of others. Amna Baltaji, originally from California, converted to Islam over 30 years ago. She says, ‘My son was so touched when a non-Muslim classmate gave him a smile and told him, “Good luck, I guess you’ll feel better at dinner!” You don’t have to be Muslim to be supportive and compassionate.’ It’s also very important for Muslim children to be on their best behaviour during Ramadan, and so tell your children to be careful not to disrupt them (and, hopefully, some of it will rub off on them).
This is one of our favourite elements of Ramadan – the focus on kindness, forgiveness and compassion. This can be seen through the charitable work that’s expected of all Muslims during Ramadan – and you certainly don’t have to be religious to take part in this. Teach your children about how helping others less fortunate can make them feel good about themselves and make a big difference to the lives of the people they help.
Dressing conservatively is a basic tenet of living in Abu Dhabi, which tends to be forgotten by many of us for much of the year, but during Ramadan we could all do with remembering where we live and having some respect. That means covering chests and shoulders, and not wearing shorts or skirts above the knee – so keep an eye on your teens.
Loud music is prohibited as Ramadan is a quiet, reflective time. We say use this to your advantage: now you have a inarguable reason to tell your teens to ‘turn that music down’, or refuse to play the Wiggles CD in the car for your tots.
Eid Al Fitr
Ramadan ends with the mother of all celebrations: Eid Al Fitr (the festival of fast-breaking). A public holiday nationwide, this goes on for three days and consists of visiting extended family, calling those who aren’t around and generally being in a darn good mood. And, of course, there’s one other element of the celebrations that can be witnessed in cultures the world over: the kids get gifts (some things never change). Even if you are a non-Muslim family, it’s a nice idea to reward your child if they have been good through Ramadan, and enjoy the festivities!