Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It was recognised as a Holy Month for Muslims as the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE during this month.
Muslims believe Ramadan fasting is mandatory, but there are some groups that do not. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, people who are seriously sick, travellers, or those at health risk should not fast.
Children that have not gone through puberty are also not required to fast during the month Ramadan.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset with no food or water. Before sunrise, many Muslims have the Suhur or a predawn meal. At sunset families and friends gather for Iftar which is the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast. Many Muslims begin the meal by eating dates as the Prophet Muhammad used to do.
Even though that fasting in Ramadan is a Muslim tradition, Saudi Arabia being the birthplace of Islam expects all people within the country to follow the mannerisms and etiquettes of this Holy Month.
Following Dos and Don’ts aren’t all that need to be observed but they do give an initial idea of how this month’s purpose to put all citizens on an equal footing to increase charity and tolerance amongst all people.
Dressing appropriately is especially important in a country like Saudi Arabia. Men and women need to display a certain amount of modesty during this month. One has to be extra careful with the way they choose to dress. Ensure that knees and shoulders are covered, be aware of necklines and wear loose fitting clothing during the month.
Exchanging Ramadan greetings is customary and the address to use is “Ramadan Kareem” when meeting Muslims, and at the end of Ramadan, for the three-day Eid celebrations, “Eid Mubarak”.
You may feel uncomfortable to say the foreign words but during the month of Ramadan the greetings are everywhere and using them is highly appreciated.
Being charitable is an important element of the Holy Month. To be generous to those less fortunate by donating food, clothes or money to individuals and charitable organisations is what Muslims are expected to do, along with giving “Zakat”, which is approximately 2.5% of their annual savings to the less fortunate.
However, the spirit of giving is all around with many charities such as Adopt-A-Camp, allowing everyone to get involved in some way. If you would like to acknowledge your Muslim maid or gardener, a token gift will be appropriate and much appreciated.
Being considerate to those who are Fasting and be sympathetic to people around you. If you feel yourself getting irate or angry, just take a deep breath and smile. Remember that it is difficult to function on no food and water.
As with eating and drinking, smoking is not allowed in public during the Holy Month of Ramadan
Avoid driving at sundown as the roads begin to fill with people heading to break their fast at Iftar celebrations. If you don’t need to be on the road at that time, you would be wise to wait half an hour. Iftar celebrations tend to be extravagant as after a very long hot day of not eating nor drinking, people enjoy spoiling themselves.
Enjoy the local culture and take your family along to one of the many hotel-based Iftar tents, soak up some local life, and don’t forget the backgammon set or a deck of Uno cards. Indulge in Moroccan Mint tea and Arabic delicacies while relaxing with family and friends.
Accept invitations to an Iftar meal with friends or colleagues. Never go empty-handed though. Arabic desserts or sweets are always a good option to offer your host. This holiday is not about the expense and a box of dates will suffice as a gift.
Eat in private and show respect for those who are fasting during the day. Most malls and all hotels will have one or two eateries open but discreetly tucked away behind closed doors. Remember that chewing gum constitutes as eating, so don’t chew gum when in public; even at your desk at work.
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