1st June 2015 (Updated 22nd May 2017)
If you are new to Abu Dhabi and this is your first Ramadan experience, it is important to know what to expect when you are working during Ramadan. Even if you are overseas and working with businesses in Abu Dhabi, the following points intend to raise your understanding and awareness to help you do business successfully during this time. Alternatively, if you are living and working in Abu Dhabi, the following points will be a good refresher.
What is Ramadan?
The Holy Month of Ramadan is when Muslims exercise self control, discipline and fasting during day light hours. It’s a spiritual time for reflection. The hardship of fasting during daylight hours is intended to help Muslims empathize with the poor and appreciate all that they have. It is also a time that Muslims celebrate with family and friends, and give to the community.
Ramadan is based upon the sighting of the moon, so be sure to check the media to confirm when Ramadan has been officially called. The Holy Month usually lasts for 29 or 30 days and will end based upon the sighting of the moon too. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a public holiday called Eid Al Fitr.
When will Ramadan be in 2017?
Ramadan is expected to commence on Saturday 27th May, this year. Eid Al Fitr is anticipated to be on Sunday 25th June.
How will Ramadan affect working in Abu Dhabi?
Reduced working hours
In the public and private sector, working hours are reduced by 2 hours per day. Office hours tend to be 9am – 3pm. Malls and hospitality centres generally extend their evening opening hours. Check opening times as some shops will only open in the evenings.
It is prohibited to eat, drink and smoke in public during daylight hours. Most restaurants and coffee shops will be closed; however, some eateries will have special licenses to remain open, but drapes will be positioned in their windows and doorways for privacy. If you are not fasting but working with Muslim colleagues it’s respectful to eat and drink in a private area away from your colleagues. Nothing should pass the lips of a fasting Muslim between sunrise and sunset. Not all Muslims fast, particularly pregnant ladies, children and those who are unwell. Many Expats living in Abu Dhabi try to get into the spirit and have a go at fasting to help them to understand the feelings and emotions that their Muslim colleagues and friends experience; however, it’s important to be careful not to dehydrate and medical advice should be sought, particularly if it is your first time.
Respect those who are fasting
Fasting can cause sleepiness and dizziness. It can also affect the way people think and behave. Be patient with those who are fasting. Keep meetings brief!
Conservative dressing is appreciated. Shoulders should be covered. Dresses and skirts should be below the knee.
Respect in the work place
If the working environment usually plays music, this will be stopped and can sometimes be replaced with the reading of the Qur'an. Loud music should not be played during the Holy Month.
Avoid afternoon meetings
Due to the effects of fasting, Muslims will be more alert for meetings during the morning. Drained from the heat and lack of refreshments, afternoons are considered for rest prior to Iftar when the fasting breaks.
Time for giving
Individuals and organizations give gifts of money and goods to charitable organizations to help those less fortunate. Some people give up their time to deliver Ramadan food boxes, to assist with renovation projects or to spend time having Iftar with those needing companionship.
It is common for businesses to send Ramadan gifts to Muslim business partners and clients, along with messages of “Ramadan Kareem”. Dates and Arabic sweets are usual gifts and Ramadan Calendars are increasingly popular with children.
Iftar and Suhour invitations
It is polite to accept invitations to Iftar and Suhour feasts. A private Iftar is an opportunity not to be missed as it will provide a traditional cultural experience.
If you tend to arrange business lunches, then a business Iftar would be an appropriate alternative.
Business relationships developed
Ramadan is a very important time to develop relationships. Although many people consider business to wind down, Majlis are opened up across the city and welcome male visitors, providing an opportunity to meet people that may not be in your existing network, including government officials and dignitaries. The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Ramadan Majlis is known for hosting prominent speakers/experts to give presentations.
Take care on the road
Extra care should be taken when driving, especially around Iftar when people are trying to reach family and friends to break their fast together. A combination of rushing, hunger and tiredness all too often end in accidents.
Ramadan is a special time. Living and working in Abu Dhabi it’s a great opportunity for an Expat to indulge in the Arabic culture.
Ramadan Kareem from the Gateway Group of Companies.
Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & CEO
Gateway Group Of Companies, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, UAE
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