Hey Royal Fam!
After a brief Bali vacation, this week's post is coming to you after making my way back to my new home Doha, Qatar. Six month since my big Middle East move ... Just as I've started to settle in and feel like I've found a daily routine, the biggest holiday of the year arrives ... Ramadan!
In short, The Holy Month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. The month celebrates the revelation of the holy book, The Quran to the Prophet Mohammed around 610CE. During this month, observers of the Islamic faith, practice fasting during daylight hours ... Exercise acts of service to those in need .. And pray mindfully as a means to become more compassionate and become closer to God.
For new expats or travelers like myself living abroad in (or visiting) Muslim countries during Ramadan, not only does this mean a dramatic shift in the slowing down of all business activities and social functions (check new hours of business before heading out), it also means learning a list of new rules when navigating the your host country. Below are just a few "do's and don'ts" for Ramadan newbies.
Ramadan Tips for Travelers
Dress modestly. This goes for men and women. As a rule of thumb, you should be covered from shoulders to knees. This is particularly true in public areas.
Consume food or drinks in public during daylight hours. This includes sips of water or chewing gum. While you yourself may not be observing or fasting, please be mindful of those around you who are. While visiting a Muslim country, there may even be rules in place prohibiting this activity on the street, in your car, or at the office. Violating this could be a legal offense depending on the host country.
Take part in meals which "break fasting" at the end of the day. "Iftar" meals (which happen at sunset) and "suhoor" meals (which happen just before sunrise and the start of fasting) are huge social gatherings during Ramadan. If you're able to partake in a local iftar at a private home, definitely go (with a small gift). Otherwise, check out "Iftar tents" held at local hotels.
Smoke or play loud music outdoors. Ramadan is a time to be reflective / contemplative
Avoid the roads right at sunset. Everyone and their grandmother who has been fasting during daylight hours is eagerly rushing home or to the mosque to pray and break fast. The roads will be crazy!
Use offensive language or gestures (especially during this time). As with consuming food or drinks in public, there may be fines associated with this action.
Perform acts of charity if possible. As Ramadan is a time of giving, gift giving and charitable acts are highly encouraged. This could include:
- Donating to a favorite charity
- Giving food or drink to laborers working in the hot sun
- Cleaning up a public park / space
- Volunteering time
In short, the Holy Month of Ramadan is an amazing time to connect with the people and culture of your host country. Here the focus is away from "the turn-up" and moreso on family, prayer, faith, and community. Enjoy and Ramadan Kareem!
As Always, The Journey Continues!