If you are living in one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, you most likely are aware of Ramadan and all that it entails. For those who intend to get work there, you need to educate yourself about Ramadan and what is expected of a non-Muslim.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic Calendar. Unlike the usual (Gregorian) calendar, an Islamic month varies from having 29 to 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon. Ramadan is the ninth month and it is traditionally said to be when God revealed to the Prophet Mohammad the first verses of the Quran. Since month durations vary, the start of the Ramadan varies accordingly.

How do Muslims Observe Ramadan?

You may have heard that Muslims fast from dawn till sunset during this month. It is one of the Five Pillars of their faith. They don’t eat food and drink water, literally nothing should pass through their lips until after iftar (breaking of the fast). Ramadan is more than just fasting from sunup to sundown, though. For Muslims, it’s a time of celebration and brotherhood, a time to affirm their faith.

Ramadan for Non-Muslims in an Islamic Country

Businesses and Restaurants

During the holy month, some businesses are closed while some will have shorter hours, foregoing the lunch hour entirely (makes sense, doesn’t it?). Most restaurants will be closed during daytime hours, but will be packed with families getting together for their bigger meal after sunset. Although there are restaurants that do serve non-Muslims, they will do so behind closed doors. It’s best practice to get a reservation for dinner since it will get busy at this time.

Ramadan for Non-Muslims in an Islamic Country

Manners for the non-Muslims

What will you feel if, for example, you were forbidden by your doctor to eat ice cream, even though it’s your favorite? And how will you feel if a friend knew you can’t eat it but insists on licking an ice cream cone in your face like it was the most delicious thing ever? Now imagine not having had a drop of water since dawn, or anything to eat, and someone else is chomping down on a huge, juicy hamburger with an ice-cold coke? Uh-huh, it doesn’t feel good, does it? It’s just manners to not flaunt eating or drinking during this time. Companies usually have a closed room that they provide for non-Muslims to eat at during mealtimes. Chewing gum is also forbidden as it is considered eating.

One Last Word

As always, we want to show solidarity with our Muslim brothers during Ramadan. We can greet them Ramadan Kareem/Eid Kareem (have a generous Ramadan) or Ramadan Mubarak/Eid Mubarak (have a blessed Ramadan). If you can’t remember that, just a simple Happy Ramadan will convey your good wishes.