Whether or not you are a Muslim who takes part in the religious and/or cultural practices during the Islamic month of Ramadan, it is imperative that you understand the way most of the people in the region act and function during this time.
For most, it is a month in which kindness, good deeds, charity and generosity are exercised more often than usual. It is a month where family and friends gather and strengthen (or even renew) relationships. But mostly, it is, for lack of a better word, a spiritual detox, where Muslims are encouraged to reflect on their past year and cleanse their souls, hearts, and bodies from all ill will.
For many expats who are new to the region, Ramadan is quite a unique concept. Not only does it affect those who practice it, but also those living in regions where most of the population is Muslim. Working hours are reduced, daytime activities become slower (and in others practically nonexistent), restaurants and cafes shut down during the day, and in some countries, eating in public is prohibited (and possibly fined!) out of respect for the month of fasting.
Every year, we try our best to educate visitors and/or expats in the Gulf and the Middle East about Ramadan. Frankly speaking, you can read as many brochures, pamphlets, travel guides, and "facts" about Ramadan, but it is quite rare to read about its cultural and traditional significance in many countries.
In an effort not to push religious topics in our readers' faces, we instead strive to present them with a more cultural guide to this month; how to act, where to go, what to eat, how to enjoy it, and more topics along those lines.. Even though Ramadan is a religious month, we want you to learn more about its effects on the Gulf's culture.
We've compiled a list of past articles that we hope will be more than informative (and interesting) to you:
The Most Anticipated Month for Muslims
Gergai'an Around the Gulf: Different Names but Same Concept
Ramadhan Outside the Arab World: Sociological Trends in the Muslim Diaspora
Perspective: When a Christian Fasts in Ramadhan
Fasting for People with Diabetes
Vimto: The Popular Cultural Icon
We wish you all a blessed and bountiful Ramadan. We hope you spend it with all of your loved ones.
– The Khaleejesque Team
Images by Omar Chatriwala