Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims around the world and here in the UAE it is a special time of year.
Ramadan 2020 started on Friday April 24, and it lasts for 30 nights.
Ramadan starts when the crescent moon (called hilal) coincides with the astronomical new moon. The exact date is decided by the UAE’s Moon Sighting Committee, agreed upon by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and announced through WAM, the UAE’s official news agency.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain all observe Ramadan on the same dates.
It is the ninth month in the Hijiri calendar and is classed as the holiest month because it is believed that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) during this period.
Muslims don’t consume any food or drinks between dawn and sunset during Ramadan – timings marked by the morning fajr prayers and the evening maghrib prayers. Once maghrib prayers are concluded, the fast can be broken with the iftar meal.
It is thought that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) broke his fast with water and a date, which is how you will find most people do it today, before moving onto a light meal. A break in eating is then recommended, so the stomach doesn’t get too full, too quickly, before having another light meal.
As well as abstaining from food, Muslims use the month for inner reflection, to focus on charity and being grateful for what they have.
On the day before the 30th day of Ramadan, the Moon Sighting Committee reconvene to look for the new crescent moon. If they see it, the following day will mark the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast.
Below you’ll find some of the most commonly asked questions about Ramadan in the UAE and how it effects everyone, not just practising Muslims. While 2020 looks to be different to most years, due to the coronavirus situation the need to stay at home across the country.
Why do people fast and when does it end?
It’s an exercise in self-restraint and is intended to remind people of those less fortunate and to give those who observe the fast a chance to detoxify the body and mind. It gives people the opportunity to focus solely on one’s faith. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside daily prayer, giving to charity, the declaration of faith and the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. As mentioned above, fasting lasts from dawn until sunset. The fast is broken with iftar and is prepared for with suhoor, a pre-dawn meal to get people through the day. Usually hotels and restaurants across the UAE offer suhoor and iftar in their restaurants, however at the time of writing, that seems unlikely with most venues closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for people to stay at home. There are some exceptions from fasting. For example, children, the elderly, anyone who is sick and pregnant ladies can be exempted.
What are working hours during Ramadan?
UAE Labour Law dictates that working hours should be reduced by two hours per day during Ramadan, regardless of whether you are fasting or not. However, working hours will be different in the public and private sectors.
Are school hours different during Ramadan?
Yes, but the timings will likely differ from school to school. This year children are being home-schooled throughout the month. For more on home schooling in Abu Dhabi click here, for Dubai click here.
Do paid parking times change?
Yes, and the timings will be announced by local authorities before Ramadan starts. Keep an eye on Time Out’s websites for the updates.
Are shops and malls open?
Local shops tend to close an hour before and after sunset, around iftar time, so it’s best to call ahead and check. Once iftar is over shops will be open as usual, perhaps even a little later than usual. Malls are usually open for an extra hour or so at night, however all malls are currently working on reduced hours
Are restaurants and cafés open during the day?
It depends on the venue, most are open all day with blacked out windows or partitions to make sure anyone eating is not visible from outside. Some venues in Abu Dhabi relaxed this towards the end of Ramadan in 2019, however. At the moment, most venues are currently only offering delivery or takeaway due to the closures in light of the global coronavirus pandemic. If you do get food from a supermarket, be sure to eat it at home. For takeaways in Abu Dhabi click here. For takeaways in Dubai click here.
For a full guide to Ramadan etiquette in the UAE, click here.