Saturday 2 July 2016

Living and Working in Dubai during Ramadan

Living in a Muslim country during Ramadan has been difficult, last year I spent 3 of the 4 weeks in Canada, this year I was working.

Now before ANYONE starts on me I'm just reporting on how I find things teaching in an Arabic school and living in Dubai during Ramadan.

I've been posting photo's and updates on social media sights and quite a few comments follow a similar line of:

'How come you have to live by their rules in Dubai, but they don't have to live by our rules when they come to the UK?'

I can live in Dubai how I like and choose. I can go to church, can work, buy and drink alcohol, drive a car, wear a swim suit on the beach, heck if I really wanted to I could wear a bikini. I could choose which school and style of education I want my children to have. I can have my own bank account, buy property.

I can celebrate Christmas, Birthdays, Easter, Valentines, Mothers and Fathers Day, Halloween and any other religious festival of my choosing. The Malls are decorated at Christmas time, playing jingle bells and the stores are well stocked. The only thing you won't hear are religious songs, but if you want to buy a statue of Buddah you have a wide chose of options.

In fact I can do anything here that I could also choose to do back in the UK.

Right that's all the background and the disclaimers covered, now here's what I actually wanted to blog about.

I've had a headache for over 3 weeks now due to working in the heat and with restricted access to fluids during the working day and commute home, in temps of 40c.

I am forbidden to eat or drink or even smoke during daylight hours in public in Dubai. Fasting starts at 5.30am and Iftar, breaking fast is around 7.10pm. I can of course do what I want within my own home as long as I can't be seen by any of my neighbours, but outside the home during these hours, it's a no, no. Actually it's illegal, but you will be given a warning first and not just arrested and frogged marched off to jail.

My normal week day in Duabi starts at 5am when the alarm goes off, giving me an hour to walk the dog, make my lunch, see to any washing, pack my bags, shower, dress and go to work at 6.15am. I teach at an Arabic School and the hours are 7am - 3.30pm Sunday till Thursday.

I eat my morning snack with the children in class and have a bottle of water on my desk to drink from during the day and at 1.30pm when the children go home I sit in my car on the far side of the car park and have a cigarette.

I often stop on my home to do a bit of shopping for the evening meal, maybe grab a coffee. When I get home I let the dog out for a pee, feed him and the cat and stay indoors until after sunset around 7pm, before walking the dog, bringing the washing in, watering the garden.

On the weekends we head to the beach or the lakes with the Dog, we are usually home by 8am again due to the heat, but we'll take a picnic breakfast with us or stop at a dog friendly cafe on the way home for a drink, as long as there is shade and we're not there too long. The routine of walking and outdoor chores stays the same and we have a lie in on one of the days. We pretty much stay in otherwise on weekends, other than a food shop or maybe a walk round a mall, but it gets a bit boring and we do eat out a lot on the weekends.

Temperatures are now around 40c during the day and dropping to 30c at night, Dubai is a city for being indoors during the summer months.

During Ramadan, despite working reduced hours from 8am - 2pm, my routine pretty much stay the same, except I eat my snack at 12pm in one of the non fasting rooms and if I want a drink during lessons I stand in one of the toilet cubicles in class and keep my water bottle on the window ledge, which as you can imagine by 10am if now warm.

I find the clothing restrictive for my job, I must cover myself from wrist to neck to ankle, which means a dress with jacket or trousers and a cardi.
I don't have any full length mirrors at home. 

I was gifted an abaya by a family from Jordan, it was lovely and cool to wear and meant I could wear minimum clothing underneath but it was a tripping hazard and I didn't have any pockets.

I still get up at the same time and whilst I can eat, drink and smoke in the privacy of my own home, I do have to ensure I can't be over looked by any of my neighbours.

Leaving work at 2pm the car temps are 45c+ so I make sure I have a drink before I leave for the car park and I go straight home because I won't find anywhere to get a drink if I stop on the way.

Weekends and early evenings have been difficult for us, the malls have screens covering the food courts with signs reading 'For Non Muslims Only' Prior to that you can buy food and drinks from outlets and the supermarket but you can't consume anything in the food halls until 12pm. So we either a) don't go out till 12pm or b) stand in a toilet cubicle and have a drink.

We pretty much stopped going out during daylight hours other than to work, in these temperatures, it is difficult to go too long without access to water, we're not prepared for fasting, our concentration levels drop. because it's summer less time is spent outdoors anyway, but cabin fever kicks in, Time Out compile lists of places to go and things to do during Ramadan and include a list of restaurants that are open during the day.

I don't like Dubai in summer, full stop. I enjoy Ramadan though other than the restrictions on food and drink. I have more of an idea now what it's like to fast and in this climate, it's not comfortable. My workload increased over the past 4 weeks and I was grateful when the temps topped 40c as supervising outdoor play whilst not being able to drink was hard work. But it's almost over for another year and I'm looking forward too observing Eid in South Africa this week. 


  1. I can only imagine how hard it is to fast during hot days! I have so much respect for people who can do this. Must take a lot from you physically and mentally. #pocolo

  2. Hi Suzanne, oh my! It must be so hard to have to limit your liquid intake when the temperatures are so high. I have to drink at least three liters of water throughout the day (during summer) to be able to function.

    It's good that there are places for non Muslim people to go to, but I can understand why you must respect the laws of the land.

    Hang in there sounds like it's nearly over.


  3. I'm struggling to work out how I'd cope with this, but I guess you just do. I like it warm, but not that warm and when it's warm I like an ice cream - it's how I'm conditioned. Interesting to hear though and hats off to everyone who lives this way. Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo and enjoy your trip x