What really happens during Ramadan in Qatar and other Moslem countries? This holy month is still a mystery to the non-Moslem world. You cannot imagine it if you have had no experience visiting or working in the Middle East or other parts of the Earth professing Islam.
For those of you who are observing the holy month for the first time in Qatar, these events make up the month-long spiritual celebration after tomorrow, May 17th, which is the official day when Ramadan starts:
Spread of charity – This is the period when the Moslem communities take part in more actively helping those in need. They are involved in volunteer activities and in some instances influence the expats to do the same. You will notice many Ramadan tents built in Doha to feed hungry people. They serve traditional and delicious meals after fasting.
Shorter working period – Those who are employed in the government sector can expect 5 hours of work which begins from 8 or 9 am and ends at 1 or 2 pm. Some of their departments reopen in the evening. As per Qatar Labor Law, employees working for private companies should toil for 6 hours. But there are exceptions because of the nature of their work, and in that case, they receive apt overtime compensation and extra time-off.
Shorter business, restaurants’ and shopping hours – Check your banks, restaurants, and shopping malls’ schedules online before you go out. They are usually open later during the day and remain so until late in the evening.
Restaurants serving Ramadan buffets are pretty popular so you have to book in advance. If you are invited to a Moslem friend’s home for dinner, be prepared to bring with you some chocolates and dates. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way. Also, this month is after all the time for sharing and giving.
When it comes to dining choices aside from iftar (or evening meal shared by Moslems to break their fast), just remember that the restaurants are closed during daytime with few ones offering delivery. Alcohol consumption is prohibited so hotel restaurants, clubs, and Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) where limited amounts are sold will be closed until the Eid or the end of Ramadan.
Quality time with family and friends – Because schools are also closed, families now have longer hours to spend doing things they like together. Some forms of entertainment are recommended including watching movies in theaters but they only open in the evenings like other business establishments.
You can visit Katara Cultural Village’s website for they have a series of activities that can be enjoyed by everyone including sports, seminars, shows, and others. Aspire Zone, an organization dedicated to sports and related research, also has many events lined up for enthusiasts.
In the middle of Ramadan, there is an increasing tradition among Moslem and non-Moslem children to dress in their colorful, traditional clothes, carry bags (that hold the nuts and sweets given by the neighborhood), and sing Garangao songs. Picture trick-or-treating and singing Christmas carols at the same time.
Heavier traffic in the evening – Many rush home after iftar meals. There are also those who want to enjoy the festivities outside so expect congestion especially around 8 pm. Be careful when driving or crossing the streets. Be patient as well.
Strictly observing the etiquette – When in a Moslem country, do as the Moslems do. Be sensitive to their culture. This month is understood to be a time for spiritual renewal where they fast so avoid eating, drinking, and chewing gum in public. If you have to eat in the office, close the door and make sure to prepare food that does not have a strong smell. Also, avoid playing loud music as it is considered disrespectful.
Hope you enjoy your first or nth time of being a part of this culture! With these pieces of information, you can now plan a productive and meaningful Ramadan. Don’t forget to greet our Moslem brothers, “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak” which loosely means “Happy Ramadan!”
All about Ramadan in Qatar. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lifeinqatar.com/pages/en/article/living/all-about-ramadan-in-qatar-1-1.html
Living in Doha, Qatar: Ramadan in Qatar (some facts visitors and residents should be aware of). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.onlineqatar.com/living/ramadan-in-qatar.aspx
Ramadan do’s and don’ts in Qatar. (2018, May 14). Marhaba. Retrieved from http://www.marhaba.qa/ramadan-dos-and-donts-in-qatar/