Your first Ramadan. Some Dos and Don’ts
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar when Muslims around the world fast from dawn until sunset for 29 or 30 days, depending on when the crescent moon is sighted.
It’s a month of increased prayer, charity, reflection and renewal of friendships for the Muslim community. All the rules on culture and etiquette in Qatar should be even more carefully observed during this period.
Ramadan in Qatar is a very unique time for both Muslims and non-Muslims and you’ll find that the usual patterns of work and leisure completely change.
Your first Ramadan in Qatar will be a time of excitement, no doubt as a new expat you have a few practical questions amidst the sudden change in routine.
Eating and drinking
Non-Muslims are not expected to fast but be aware that in Qatar you cannot eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public.
Out of respect for fellow co-workers, workplaces generally observe a non-eating, drinking and smoking policy in any open areas. Exemptions may be made for food and beverages to be consumed in a closed meeting room, office or separate pantry where food can be consumed in private and out of sight, and, only if not in the company of colleagues, clients and visitors who may be fasting. Of course, it is necessary to be mindful of food aromas and to avoid strong smelling foods.
The timings for government departments that serve the public change for the entire month.
Government offices run on a five-hour schedule during Ramadan, from 8am-1pm or 9am to 2pm with some departments re-opening at night. Private sector employees work six hours per day, for a total of 36 hours per week, which is mandated by Qatar Labour Law.
With shorter working hours, you and your family will find that you have more leisure time together and it’s always fun planning how to spend this time. For spouses at home, you may be wondering how Ramadan affects you running your day to day errands.
Here’s a brief guide on what to expect:
Shopping and Business hours
Shops, banks and mall operations and hours will change and it’s advisable to check these before heading out of the house during Ramadan. Generally, malls will remain open late at night. A useful opening hours’ guide can be found here.
For a complete list of opening hours for Commercial Bank branches, please check here.
Many restaurants remain closed for the entire day until sunset while a select few may offer delivery. It’s best to check with individual outlets.
Hotel bars and pubs will be shut during Ramadan, as will Qatar’s alcohol outlet, Qatar Distribution Company.
Breaking the fast is, of course, greatly significant for anyone fasting, and this is done through a nightly Iftar.
There are plenty of good dining options around Doha and many expats look forward to visiting some of the more elaborate Iftar or Suhoor buffets and the beautifully decorated Ramadan tents at local hotels. For more on Ramadan offerings at local restaurants click here.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home for an Iftar meal, it’s worth making the effort to attend and a small gift of dates or chocolates will be welcomed by the host.
There will be lots of other ways to enjoy your first Ramadan in Qatar. Most activities are family-friendly and special events are held for children. On the 14th night of Ramadan, Qatari children take part in the tradition of Garangao, a Middle Eastern feast, by dressing up in traditional clothing and going out into the local neighbourhood to sing the Garangao song and collect sweets and nuts from neighbours.
Families may also enjoy watching a traditional cannon being fired outside the Mohammed Bin Abdul Wahab Mosque to mark the breaking of the fast each evening.
Ramadan events and festivals:
Katara Cultural Village hosts a Ramadan Festival each year with a series of events, exhibitions, workshops and lectures running the entire month and a Garangao event.
Aspire Zone hosts a Ramadan Sports Festival to keep sports enthusiasts engaged.
Ramadan in Qatar is definitely a time of celebration and as an expat you are sure to be caught up in the spirit of this season. But it is also a very solemn time and being culturally sensitive is so important. Here are a few extra dos and don’ts to remember:
Wear tight-fitting clothes or expose your legs and shoulders. Be careful about how you dress.
Play loud music in your car or at home as it’s considered a sign of disrespect.
Greet Muslim colleagues and friends with 'Ramadan Kareem' (meaning a generous Ramadan) and ‘Eid Mubarak’ at the end of Ramadan during the Eid celebrations.
Check your company’s policy on eating anywhere in the workplace.
Be careful on the roads, especially around the time of sunset and late evening as many people will be rushing to prayers or Iftar meals. After the evening prayers, you’ll find that roads become very congested.
For more information on Ramadan, contact Fanar, Qatar's Islamic Cultural Centre at www.fanar.gov.qa.