According to reports, Ramadan 2010 will begin on August 11 and run until about September 11. Western newcomers to Dubai will have no doubt heard plenty about the religious month – perhaps stories of hungry non-Muslims eating snacks in public toilets, offending people by showing their shoulders, or having to dodge drifting drivers on the roads at sunset. Fear not. We’re here to help you have an enjoyable Ramadan (Dubai Tourism in the UK is even promoting it as a peak time for tourists to visit for a more authentic cultural experience).
So, to answer your first question: what is Ramadan? It’s the annual Muslim Holy Month, a time for getting closer to God, giving to charity, testing your resolve and purging sins. This is done through prayer, celibacy and abstaining from eating, drinking and smoking between the calls to prayer at sunrise and sunset. It is valued as the most important month of the year, and even non-strict Muslims tend to fast at this time. And with 315 million Muslims residing in North Africa and the Middle East – about 20 per cent of the world’s Muslim population – chances are you will interact with many fasting people.
During Ramadan, it is a crime for anyone to eat, drink or smoke in public. Violators can be jailed for a month or fined Dhs2,000. Dubai Police head of criminal investigation Brigadier Khaleel Al-Mansouri last year stated: ‘Residents should cooperate by informing us of people doing such a thing.’ Over the past few years, 24 people have been apprehended for these crimes.
In recent times many argue that Ramadan has become more commercial, with TV programmers and merchandisers seen to be cashing in. As with Christmas in the West, some are concerned that the true meaning of Ramadan is being forgotten. How will it be this year? Not long until we find out...