Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims worldwide observe as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Fasting is an obligation for adult Muslims, except those who are ill, travelling, pregnant, diabetic or going through menstruation. The month lasts 29 to 30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in hadiths. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations they also refrain from swearing.
Ramadan is a spiritually joyous occasion for Muslims. They will give extra to charity and use the time to think of others. In fact, this is a good time for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike to do the same.
Whether you’re fasting or not during Ramadan, here are a few things to keep in mind while spending Ramadan in Qatar:
+ Wish your friends and colleagues ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ or ‘Ramadan Kareem’, both loosely translated as ‘happy Ramadan’.
+ Remember that during Ramadan, working hours change including banks, malls, markets and much more. Therefore, before heading out, call ahead for working hours to avoid finding a place closed after you’ve reached it.
Note: Restaurants are closed during the day, except for some hotel outlets. Some open only an hour or so before sunset for takeout orders. After Iftar, all restaurants open. You will notice that malls and shops will have different opening hours in Ramadan and it is advised that you call first to see if they are open. Many will close in the afternoon and reopen after Iftar, staying open until well past midnight in most cases.
+ Dress modestly. Although you hear this throughout the year in Qatar, this is more important in Ramadan.
+ Try fasting during Ramadan. It’s not ‘haram’ or illegal in the Islamic religion for non-Muslims to do so.
+ Join your Muslims friends or colleagues during Iftar or Suhour (late night/early morning meal before the fast begins). It’s an intimate gathering with a feast of delicious food.
+ Enjoy the Iftar and Suhour offers at Qatar’s leading hotels.
+ Get your government, ministries and other official work done before Ramadan begins as everything slows down during this period. This also refers to car and home services.
+ Be careful when driving close to or during Iftar time. It’s rush hour!
+ If you know you’ll be on the road while the Maghreb prayer calls, please do make sure you have water, dates or anything small to eat or drink in order to break your fast on time and not wait until you reach your destination.
+ Avoid PDA (public displays of affection). PDA should be avoided anyway, but it is more important during Ramadan. The same goes for swearing.
x Whether you’re in the office or classroom with those who fast in Ramadan, please avoid drinking, eating or smoking in their presence. It’s not a rule or religious law but out of respect for those who are fasting. If you’d like to drink, eat or smoke, please find a place where you can do so. However, some fasting Muslims might not mind seeing you eat, drink or smoke so don’t be afraid to ask so you know whether you should or shouldn’t. In addition, in most workplaces, there will be no tea boy making drinks in the office, your favourite coffee shop will be closed so no double espresso to get you through the day.
Note: In Qatar, it’s illegal to eat or drink in public from dawn to sunset during Ramadan.
x Don’t drink alcohol in public or in private in the presence of Muslims. The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Islam, and public consumption is illegal in Qatar during Ramadan.
Note: In Qatar, it’s illegal to drink alcohol in public. For Muslims, it’s illegal to drink alcohol at all times. In addition, bars, lounges and night clubs are closed during Ramadan, as is the drinks distribution centre.
x Don’t overeat or overindulge, in anything, after breaking your fast. That beats the purpose of fasting in Ramadan. Do everything in moderation!
x Don’t work long hours. Overworking yourself while fasting can harm your health. In addition, long working hours could result in you rushing back home in time for Iftar, which could lead to putting your life and others in danger. Please avoid reckless driving in order to make it on time for Iftar.
Note: Working hours during Ramadan are legally reduced by about two hours a day, for a maximum of 30 hours a week.
x Don’t workout or go to the gym before you break your fast, as you can harm your health. Deaths have been reported as a result of this. If you’re not fasting and at the gym before Iftar, avoid drinking or eating in front of those who are fasting. Again, some fasting Muslims might not mind seeing you eat, drink or smoke so enquire if you have no other option!
x Try to avoid supermarkets from noon to Iftar if you’d like to avoid the rush, as families stock up on groceries for the evening meals. This is the time to indulge in one of the many delicacies available. Why not try qatayef: these are the little pancakes commonly eaten during Ramadan and widely available. Delicious with cheese, dates and nuts.
To learn more about Ramadan, read Marhaba’s post, ‘It’s All About Ramadan‘.
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