It's not easy to be a tourist in Dubai or Abu Dhabi during the holy month of Ramadan. Most shops and restaurants are closed, the same as tourist attractions. The temperatures are usually well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can't even be seen drinking water on the streets until sunset.
If you happen to work here or visit this beautiful city during Ramadan, here are some tips to help you cope with a different religion and different local customs.
Although Dubai consists of nearly 90% expats from all over the globe, everyone should make an effort to integrate and learn something about Muslim customs, especially during the holy celebration of Ramadan. For instance, if you want to greet someone, you should use the greetings “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak”. This will get you points with the locals and help you feel like you belong to a community.
Drinking and eating
Arabic cuisine is one of the most tasteful and appreciated in the world but you should take into account the rules of the Ramadan before thinking about eating or drinking. For all Muslims, smoking, eating, chewing gum or drinking in public is forbidden during the Ramadan, at least before sunset. It is punishable with up to one month in jail or a fine of nearly $600.
Although rules are a little more relaxed when it comes to foreigners, you can still be fined by not respecting the law. However, there are still places where you can get a drink and grab a bite all-day-long, even during this celebration.
Most restaurants are usually closed before sunset but you'll find some kept open, especially for tourists and non-fasters. These are usually covered by black sheets on windows and dining or drinking is only allowed inside.
Alcohol beverages are only available in selected locations and cannot be purchased from liquor shops or stores. It is strictly forbidden to drink or serve alcohol in other establishments than the ones particularly made for that such as night clubs, certain bars, and hotel bars. The rules apply throughout the year, not only during Ramadan, so say goodbye to your fantasy of sipping a Corona on the beach.
However, there are a couple of beach bars and clubs that serve alcohol throughout the day, even during Ramadan, especially for tourists.
And, if you plan on going to a cinema, theme park or any other entertainment facility during the holiday, you should only look for those with a designated area for non-fasters.
The UAE labor law states that working hours should be reduced by two hours during the holy month of Ramadan, leaving an average working day of 6 hours. However, the law specifically refers to Muslims, so expats of different religions will still have to work their full schedule.
The good news for expats and tourists is that malls and shops are not affected by this law. Many shopping malls and other establishments choose to keep their doors open well after midnight, to help people of all religions handle shopping.
However, don't expect them to be open first thing in the morning. Generally speaking, most shops are open from 10 AM, so you'll have little to do in town before that hour.
Since few people leave their houses before sunset, it comes as no surprise that the Dubai traffic sparks during the night. The combination of hungry people, heat, and the rush to get to dinner celebrations make the roads quite unsafe for all people, not only tourists.
If you plan on riding a motorbike, it would be best to gear up and not forget a pair of some cool riding goggles designed for the night. Make sure to stay in your lane and avoid speeding up.