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Expat’s Guide to Ramadan

Expat’s Guide to Ramadan
Courtesy of Yasin Hassan

Picture courtesy of Yasin Hassan via CC.

The Muslim countries are marvelous and intriguing places. One of the reasons is their rich culture and colourful traditions. They hold certain hidden charms but also some perks that every newcomer should master. More than any other holiday, Ramadan is cherished by the Islamic community. If you plan to move to a Middle East country you have to get acquainted with the many rules of this month –  long celebrations.

The first step is to understand the essence of the holiday. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and rectification through a fast. The main idea is to teach self – discipline, self – control and empathy for the less fortunate. It is held in the ninth month of the Islamic year, usually in July. The celebration is one of the five pillars of the Islamic religion and serves for shaping the moral frames.

The fast begins at dawn and ends at sunset. No food or drinks can be consummated during that time. Smoking is also out of the question. In addition, any sinful behavior such as engaging in disagreements, sexual relations or offensive language is forbidden. Except for restraining from any impure physical actions, one should keep their thoughts clean as well. Emotions such as lust, greed and envy should be avoided.

Seems like a lot to remember? Don’t worry; here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will save you a lot of awkward situations.

Do’s

We start our guide through the Ramadan etiquette with your outfit. Dressing more conservatively probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. You should be even more cautious of what you are wearing during the holiday month. Women in particular should expose as less skin as possible and not go too far with the makeup.

In the spirit of the celebration help the needy. Being charitable is a great way to show your understanding of the traditions and respect for the community.

This is a perfect time to try iftar. At the end of the daily fast, Muslims prepare eclectic evening meals to gratify their efforts. It marks the time for the evening prayer. It is an amazing opportunity to try the variety of Eastern kitchen and treat yourself with some goodies, worthy of the taste of any foodie.

Travel around and visit the most emblematic mosque in your city. You will feel the atmosphere and get to know the culture. It is advisable, though, not to drive during sundown because of the busy traffic. Most of the people will be in hurry to go home after the long day of restrain. If you’re planning to take a taxi during that time, think twice. Chances are you won’t find any, since it’s dinner time.

If the magic of this celebration has gotten into you, try feasting for a couple of days. You will have the full package experience of Ramadan.

Ramadan is an important holiday in the Islamic countries and it has certain influences on the daily routine. In some cities shops, restaurants and café may be closed during the daily fast. It may also cause disruption in the work of the institutions.

Don’ts

Abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and even chewing gum in the public place. This is a must even for tourists and non- Muslims, especially if you are a resident of an Islamic country. Furthermore, don’t try to offer food to local people because not only will they refuse to accept it, but also they will see it as disrespectful.

Included in the “Don’ts “list is any kind of inappropriate or offensive behavior. Getting drunk, for example, will be taken extremely negative. You may find that most of the liquor stores are closed for the month. Also it is a sign of bad manners to swear or shout. Playing loud music and dancing are activities that you should avoid or keep indoors. The public display of affection especially during the Ramadan month is completely forbidden.

The clash with different culture may be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. The most important thing is to take your time to get to know the customs and to enjoy to the fullest the new experience.

 

Charlotte Madisson is a blogger and freelance writer from Sheffield, England. Expat herself, she is passionate about home, nature and travelling. Choosing to work for a United Kingdom relocation company came naturally as she already knew that relocating your home means relocating your whole life in another country and found out that she could help people with it. She uses every free moment for sports or spending time with a book and a glass of wine. Currently she writes articles on DIY topics for different home maintenance related companies.