By Nader Torki
Ramadan in Dubai is totally different than in any other city in the Middle East and maybe in the whole world. In order to understand why Dubai is different, we need to have a closer look at the population in Dubai.
Dubai is a cosmopolitan city hosting more than 200 nationalities, with expatriates forming 90% of the total population of Dubai (around 2 million inhabitants). More than half of these expatriates come from South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines). Around 25% come from Arab countries and 10% from Western countries.
With the huge variety of cultures and nationalities in one city, it is hard to feel the Ramadan spirit the same as we do in Egypt. You don’t find Ramadan decorations in most areas or find youth offering you dates and water to break your fasting in the street if you are stuck in the traffic at Iftar time.
In some areas in Dubai, you will not be able to hear the Athan all the time unless you live near a mosque and of course you will never find “Mesaharaty” calling for Sohour time as you have in Egypt. I prefer turning on any local TV channel to make sure I’m hearing the Maghreb Athan at the right time.
Summer in Dubai is extremely hot and humid; the temperature can reach 48°C while the humidity levels fluctuate between 80-90%. Thank God we are working in offices where A/C is your only method of surviving that weather.
Fortunately, the government in Dubai is enforcing some laws during Ramadan since it is a Muslim country, so working hours are reduced by two hours a day. For outdoor construction work, it is prohibited by law to work from 12:30 to 3:30 pm.
Another law enforced by the government specifically during Ramadan is that adults cannot eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours. This includes public places, cars and even restaurants. If you violate these rules, you have to pay a fine or even go to jail.
Non-Muslims in Dubai should only eat, drink and smoke in closed areas discreetly or have food delivered as most of the restaurants everywhere are closed until Iftar time.
During Ramadan, nightclubs are closed, music is not allowed in pubs and bars and there are no concerts or festivals during the holy month.
Women are expected to dress in a modest way during Ramadan, so revealing and tight clothing should be avoided and women should keep cleavage, knees and shoulders covered. Although the shopping malls display dress code warning signs throughout the whole year, the code is not being respected by many women including during Ramadan. So if you are fasting in Dubai, try to avoid the malls before Iftar.
In offices, non-Muslim coworkers usually respect their Muslim colleagues and eat their delivered food in closed meeting rooms. Most of them also participate in company Iftar gatherings.
Egyptians in Dubai usually gather during Ramadan to have Iftar in restaurants since most of our houses are small and are not suitable for gatherings in big numbers.
Egyptian and Lebanese restaurants in touristic spots and hotels are the most popular places to have Iftar since all of them have open buffets. The range of prices for Iftar in Dubai is between 70 – 200 DHS (110 – 320 EGP) per person.
After Iftar, families and friends usually go somewhere to have dessert and shisha, but of course few places offer shisha in air conditioned areas, so the choices are limited.
A funny thing about Dubai during Ramadan is that because it is known for its beautiful high rises, if you are living on a high floor in Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building, more than 828 meters tall) and on a floor higher than the 80th, an official fatwa has stated that Iftar time is delayed at least two to three minutes after hearing the Maghreb Athan because it takes longer to see the sun from up there.