So what’s it like? With this being my second round of Ramadan action in the UAE ; things in Dubai are considerably different from our time in Egypt .
For those unaware Ramadan signals the start of the holy month where fasting, prayer, abstinence – including thinking of others far less well-off – is the order of each of these extra-special days in the Muslim calendar. This date, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, moves forward each year (by approximately 11 days) as it’s based on a lunar calendar which has around 354 days; whereby the current year is 1440.
In Egypt, for non-Muslims, there wasn’t so much difference in terms of notable changes. The bars, clubs, and restaurants etc were much quieter (due to the lack of locals frequenting) but aside from that, it was business as usual nightlife wise. Non-Muslims were allowed to drink , to dance , and DJs and live entertainment were permitted as usual.
Here in Dubai, it’s not quite that liberal in a sense, permits for DJs and live music are not authorized unless the entertainment is strictly Arabic / traditional entertainment suitable for Iftar (the first meal after sunset) celebrations. So aside from bar and restaurant venues being quieter by nature (both in the number of guests and volume of music played), there are no DJs or live bands/performances in western establishments during the holy month.
All of our DJs, performers and musicians, therefore, are on a mandatory holiday for the entire month. Many local Muslim residents return to their home countries to be closer to family around this time of year, many expats – especially within the hospitality and entertainment sectors – also take this downtime to take annual leave.
For those who remain, the working day is reduced by two hours across the board. More noticeably non-Muslims are not allowed (at least on a social/ethical basis) to eat, drink or smoke (in public) during daylight hours.
Amongst the professionals left in the city – certainly within our organization – this is a great time of the year to refocus on bigger projects landing in the summer . It gives us a chance to reach out to friends and contacts whom we haven’t spoken to in too long, and to arrange meetings with those we’ve been meaning to connect with for some time.
My colleague Tyra’s father ‘Big Papa Shak’ runs a very successful auto-repair shop here. Each Ramadan he and his team spend the end of every day packing and handing out food parcels to hundreds of people needy for a free meal; these mainly constitute much lower-paid workers and labourers who receive a basic salary and send most of this money home to parts of India and Pakistan to support families there. Last year, helping hand out the food parcels was an immensely rewarding experience that this year I went back again just a few days ago. Inshallah, I will help him out again before Ramadan ends.
Aside from most of our venues being quieter, as a rule, our STK branch in the Rixos Premium JBR has had two record-breaking brunches (Fridays) back-to-back – smashing our previous sales record by some 15% during the holy month! Madness I tell thee.
It does seem that each year here the Ramadan regulations get a little more relaxed, next year – for the Expo 2020 – it will be interesting to see what the rules of play will be by then. Ramadan Kareem (Happy Ramadan) one and all!