Expat FAQ

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How can I travel/live in Muslim countries during Ramadan?

What is Ramadan?

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan. Believed to be the month that the Qu'ran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking smoking, sexual intimacy with their partners and negative behaviors like swearing, lying and getting angry from Imsak, which is just before sunrise, until Maghrib, at sunset. This is in order to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice. Ramadan is much more than abstaining, Muslims believe Ramadan is a time to read the entire Qu'ran and is an auspicious month for the revelations of God to humankind.

How to show respect for Ramadan

Non-Muslims are not expected to follow Ramadan, but should respect the holiday. Legal authorities are often on the lookout for any inappropriate behavior demonstrated by non-Muslims. In Dubai, police have been instructed to initially issue a warning to offenders before awarding fines of to $550 USD for any infractions.

If you employ domestic staff who are Muslim, you should be aware of their dietary needs. This may have an impact on their ability to perform their day-to-day tasks. Allow employees to complete any strenuous jobs first thing in the morning, after they have eaten, and respect the fact that they may grow tired in the afternoon from abstaining. In some countries, such as Indonesia, you will be expected to pay a one-month bonus to all domestic help and household staff near the end of the fasting month.

Try to maintain a quiet demeanor during Ramadan. This includes refraining from playing loud music at home or in your car, avoid swearing, dress especially modestly, and not dancing in public. Note that these behaviors are considered highly disrespectful and are not acceptable on your balcony or car if you can be observed. It is polite to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in front of those who are fasting. In some countries, such as Dubai, it is illegal to eat and drink in public during the month of Ramadan. As an additional resource, expatriates living in predominantly Muslim countries will also find Ramadan etiquette guides in their local newspapers.

Participate in the community and celebrations. The numerous charitable events are the perfect place in which to show your participation. Charity is a positive act no matter your religion or location and will be highly respected. And though the city can be repressively somber during the daytime, sundown is an event for daily celebration. Connect with your Muslim neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances and take the opportunity to learn more about the people and place you now call home.


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