Tuesday, 8 May 2018

What does Ramadan mean to a non Muslim living in the Middle East?

There are positives and negatives of course and as an non muslim, I don't have to deal with having with going about my daily activities in the heat of summer whilst fasting. With Ramadan starting next week, I thought I'd blog about what I can and can't do here during this time and can refer people to this post rather than answering endless questions that I face every year about what people think I can't do whilst living here.


The shops go into full retail mode with sales and fantastic deals on offer to everyone. There are Iftars (breaking fast) meals, social events and gatherings. And the end of Ramadan Eid al Fitr is marked with fireworks and celebrations.


Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year, in which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset. In 2018 Ramadan starts 16/17th May. Our first Ramadan in Dubai, in 2015 was in the middle of June. On average it is 11 days earlier each year and whilst this is an approximate date, final confirmation isn't until the new moon is sighted.

If we're still here in a few years, Ramadan will be in winter, day light hours shorter and not as hot. It's the heat I struggle with the most and not being able to drink water if I'm out in public, although as a non muslim I can carry on eating and drinking as normal. I have actually been asked If I'm actually allowed to eat and drink during this month.

However there are some restrictions placed upon me in public during daylight hours whilst I go about my everyday activites in Dubai, during Ramadan and these include:


  • No eating
  • No drinking (not even water)
  • No chewing gum
  • No smoking
I can still do the above in the privacy of my own home, my garden as it's fenced off and on our balcony. 

However if I'm out it's a bit more of a struggle. You won't find anywhere to smoke during the day, unless you sit in your car, surrounded by sun screens. Although not recommend when the car temps reach 57c.


Food halls and some cafes are open, but finding out who is and who isn't and who is available for take away only and opening times is a different matter altogether. 

Every year I find more and more places open for non muslims during Ramadan. However opening hours change, with places opening later in the day and staying open later at night. Little is advertised on the websites. But if you're in Dubai on holiday during Ramadan, then your hotel restaurant will operate as normal. However you may find alcohol is restricted during day light hours in Ramadan.

Everyone is exceptionally friendly here in Dubai during Ramadan and they will allow for mistakes. You'll be politely asked not to eat or drink in the malls, outside of restricted areas which are clearly labelled and with a list of the rules.



Muslims who are ill, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding etc are exempt from fasting and you will see muslims in non muslim areas feeding their children during the day. 

26 comments:

  1. A fantastic post! I imagine it is quite hard to crack on as normal, it is so hot over there - will be much kinder when in the Winter months! Sim x #PoCoLo

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    1. the winter months are fantastic full stop

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  2. I remember being in Dubai during Ramadan 25 years ago. I see things have loosened up a little. Great post. #TriumphantTales

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    1. this is our 4th Ramadan and there have been so many changes to how us non muslims can carry on functioning, it's all very positive

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  3. Really interesting. It's great that they appreciate that not everyone is the same religion and has spaces and places for you. Thanks for sharing at #TriumphantTales, hope to see you back again next week!

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  4. WOW that is so hot! Great informative post.

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  5. This is so interesting, thanks for sharing! #tweensteensbeyond

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  6. This is something that I have wondered about before - this was a very interesting read. I have been in Turkey (a tourist part) during Ramadan and things just carried on as normal. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

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    1. I'd never noticed or observed Ramadan prior to moving here

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  7. That must be brutal not being able to drink water out in the summer sun, at least you are allowed to eat an drink in hotels and certain places. #Tweensteensbeyond

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    1. Non Muslims are very well catered for

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  8. This is such an interesting post....
    It must be so hard not to drink water when you are out and about in the heat.... #PoCoLo

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    1. I've had a few slip ups over the year

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  9. The water is particularly brutal according to my Muslim friend. The food he can manage.

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    1. Oh for sure, one has to be incrediably dedicated in this heat also

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  10. What an interesting post and really useful for people to understand X #POCOLO

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    1. thank you, to be honest I get fed up explaining lol

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  11. This is an interesting read Suzanne. My husband finds it tough visiting the Middle East for meetings during Ramadan more because of the restriction on drinking water than anything else. I always feel for those students taking exams in England during that time - it must be so hard. Thanks for sharing with us. #TweensTeensBeyond

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    1. It certainly was hard teaching during Ramadan when it falls in the middle of summer here. Although my children in class were eating (too young to fast) I still couldn't eat or drink in front of them)

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  12. You brought back memories of Ramadam just been seen as very odd and almost wrong as there was so much racism in the town I grew up in. So it is good to have some real information. Your post also made me reflect as I have before that it seems to be other countries and cultures are so much more forgiving than the UK #BestBootForward

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    1. I grew up in a small village where I wasn't exposed to different religions and cultures until I left home aged 18. It must be very hard to be fasting outside the UK when everyone around you is carrying on as normal.

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  13. We lived in Jordan and Syria for a while (well before all the current) issues and I remember Ramadan, we had neighbours in Jordan who used to invite us to their big celebrations at the end and I remember enjoying that. I have muslim mum's at my group who are fasting, and it's interesting to talk to them and learn more. Thanks for sharing
    #tweensteensbeyond

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    1. I love Ramadan here. Jordan and Syria must've been interesting places to have lived, what took you out there?

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