It’s back again! Cannot believe another year has flown by. Wishing all my Muslim friends a Ramadan Kareem…
For those of you who have no idea what the word Ramadan means, here is the ‘official’ explanation; “It is the holy month for Muslims during which Muslims around the globe celebrate the revelation of the Koran which is the Muslin equivalent of the Christian Bible.” Basically in Christian Catholic terms, Ramadan is similar to Lent. The Muslim community eats nothing between the hours of sunrise and sunset and feast after sunset and before sunrise.
So in Dubai, quite a large proportion of the population is fasting during the so-called ‘Holy Month’. And what does that mean for non-Muslim residents? Where to start…
The good element for expatriates living in Dubai during Ramadan is that the benefits of the shortened working day – from the usual 10 hours down to 8 hours apply (to most organizations). Now I know at home in Ireland for example, the working day is only a eight hours, so really it’s not much of a plus.
The disadvantages though, really do surpass the advantages. Basically, one cannot eat, drink, chew gum, smoke or be loud in a public place anytime between 4am and 7pm (approximately). Restaurants are cornered off if not fully closed for the month. Food is not to be seen in any capacity in between these hours. In respect for my own Muslim Colleagues, I cannot drink water throughout the day nor eat anything at my desk. If I wish to do so, I must leave the office to enter a private room, be that a toilet or empty office.
These acts miserably apply for all Non-Muslim Religions.
What does that do for tourism in the country? The key markets holidaying in Dubai are from mainland Europe, Russia / CIS and China. It does not take a religious order to figure out that most of these markets are not Muslim.
The chief income for Dubai is tourism. What happens in August? Income decreases severely. Hotel rooms are empty. The GDP falls dramatically. The Government should be aiming to come up with more engaging systems for the month of August – who wants to come on a holiday where they are not allowed have the freedom to drink a bottle of water on the beach? Or go to a bar with no music in the evening?; All forbidden during Ramadan. If one is caught eating, drinking or even chewing gum they are fined on the spot or taken to jail depending on circumstances (I wish I was exaggerating).
I sit writing this in my apartment. Sadly this is a place where I spend a lot of time for the month of August. The other day, I was trying to plan my weekend off in Dubai. Cinema was off, as one cannot eat popcorn even in the dark. Beach was off, as one cannot drink water while soaking up the sun, even in the 40˚C+ heat. In the end it was decided to go out for a brunch. That was not a wise option. We visited three popular eateries in Dubai, where one would always find a large amount of expatriates dining and not one of them were open for eat in. If you want to eat, you have to have takeaway – like it’s a sin to be eating in public.
It is really quite ironic as I personally think it’s very hypocritical. For instance, one must abstain from visiting the tallest Building in the World for the whole month however the local water parks are open as usual for business – how does that apply? There are no official rules and regulations from the Government of Dubai to be found about the month of Ramadan.
Now I do not want to get into the details of the Muslim Religion but I feel that it’s the one Religion in which it effectively damages the Economy (especially in Dubai) for the whole month. If, perhaps, the rules were not so strict on tourists / non-Muslim residents, it would not be the dreaded month of the year – Residents would not flee the country in the risk of being arrested; tourists could actually enjoy the many attractions that Dubai has to offer (by the way, Ski Dubai is also fully closed during the month of Ramadan).
It’s actually like the Dubai Government saying – ‘we’re closed for the month of Ramadan, do come again in the future, when we will put up with your Religion’. Simple I know, but honestly that’s how one would feel when living in Dubai during Ramadan.
There are certain things in Dubai that really make one feel as if it’s not a place to settle down in and this is certainly a huge one of them. It’s not inviting anyone to come; it’s pushing them further away.
Now it’s not all that bad. As I mentioned, there is the fact that most non-Muslim workers (like myself) get to work a shortened day; the roads are extremely quiet; the malls are literally empty during the day (great for shopping) and there are amazing deals on in Hotels and some Restaurants around the Emirates. The Dubai fountains are also in operation, which again seems to me a bit hypocritical, in that there is no ‘live entertainment’ permitted during the month, yet one of the loudest attractions, music wise, proceeds in the evenings (and they are such a sight – honestly).
I don’t want to come across as negative, I enjoy my time in Dubai and I know it has many other elements to it. But for a whole 30 days, the image of the city is really damaged.
So it’s over to the friends for the rest of the month; the non-Muslim ones of course. Hopefully it will pass by smoothly… But for now I wish you Ramadan Kareem.