Ramadan in Qatar: All you need to know

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Debz

Ramadan 2016 begins on Tuesday and for many people new in Qatar, the knowledge about Ramadan and the happenings related to it, is very limited. So we thought of highlighting the true meaning and essence of the occasion. Ramadan in Qatar is a very unique time for both Muslims and non-Muslims and it feels like a special time of the year.

Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims worldwide, is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar and is observed with piety, charity and good deeds in Qatar. The ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is an annual observance and is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. While non-Muslims can participate, fasting is an obligation for adult Muslims, except for those who are ill, travelling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding.

While fasting during Ramadan, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations they also refrain from swearing.

Ramadan is a spiritually joyous occasion for Muslims as they engage in charitable activities and other good deeds, using the time to think of others.

The month lasts 29-30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in Hadiths. The holiday of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal.

As an expat, you may initially find it difficult to understand the happenings around but eventually you will find that there is an order to the method and may even decide to be a part of it.

A lot changes in Qatar during this period, including work schedules and opening hours of shops and malls, and people also need to keep a list of dos and don’ts as a mark of respect for those observing the fast from dawn to sunset.

Here are some things that people - particularly newcomers to the country - need to know about Ramadan in Qatar.

Shorter work hours

A key aspect of Ramadan is the change in timings at offices, banks, schools and other places. Government offices in the country run on a five-hour schedule, from 9am to 2pm, while some agencies providing public services may remain open longer. According to the country’s labour law, private sector employees are supposed to work for a shortened six hours a day. Business, however, continues as usual in some workplaces. Ministries, public institutions, healthcare facilities, banks and other public and private organisations issue special timings for this period, which can be ascertained from their websites, social media platforms or on their premises.

No eating or drinking in public

 

It is illegal toconsume food, drink beverages, smoke or chew gum in public spaces during the fasting hours. Restaurants and cafes remain closed during these hours though a few may provide takeaway facilities. Some offices are more strict than others in observing rules that pertain to eating in public. However, most offices have a designated spot, like a lunchroom, where the non-Muslim and non-fasting staff can have their meals.

A lot on offer, but watch what you eat

While Ramadan is primarily about fasting and cleansing the mind, body and soul, food plays a key role throughout the month as hotels and restaurants line up special meals - such as Iftar and Suhoor - during the non-fasting hours.

 

It is a festive month and people spend time with family and socialise over food. However, eating the right kind of food is essential, especially while breaking the fast, and people should also avoid overeating. During this period, hospitals in Qatar see a rise in the number of patients admitted with stomach problems or ailments related to overeating. Those observing the Ramadan fast should follow guidelines issued by the healthcare authorities to ensure safe and healthy eating.

 

Busy evenings, crowded roads

 

While the streets remain relatively less congested during the day, plan well and expect delays while visiting malls and other places in the evening as several roads get clogged in the evening and it takes longer than usual to find parking space. It is common for people to meet friends, relatives as well as colleagues - at home, in some restaurant or at a mall - after the evening prayers and this leads to massive crowds in many places. In particular, areas housing popular eateries see a lot of congestion until late in the night.

 

Stay calm at the wheel

 

The authorities in Qatar have time and again reminded people to be careful and patient while driving back home to break the fast. A number of accidents are reported during this period as people rush back home.

 

Dress, behave modestly

As Ramadan is a spiritual month, it is advised that one should dress and behave modestly. In particular, revealing and tight clothing should be avoided. One should also avoid playing loud music in the car or even at home as it is considered rude and a sign of disrespect. People should refrain from swearing or indulging in other forms of inappropriate behaviour.

A month of giving

Good deeds and giving are an integral part of Ramadan. Different charity organisations in the country line up special Ramadan initiatives aimed at different target groups, and those interested can participate and make a difference in the lives of others, especially the less fortunate.

Festivities and entertainment

Ramadan also provides an opportunity to spend quality time with friend and family. Various public and private entities organise special Ramadan programmes in order to provide wholesome entertainment in line with the traditions and customs of the country. From restaurants and malls to places of special interest such as museums, Katara and Aspire Zone, to name a few - one can find a range of options to choose from during this period. The activities are a mix of entertainment, food, sporting initiatives, special religious programmes as well as a wide variety of attractions for children. Most shopping malls also remain open for longer than usual.

Ramadan traditions in Qatar

Qatar has some unique Ramadan traditions that are an intrinsic part of the celebrations. These include the sunset cannon, which is fired to mark the breaking of the fast, the Garangao celebrations, wherein kids dress up in traditional clothes and go around in the neighbourhood collecting nuts and chocolates as gifts, and others.

Meet and greet

Greet people with a smile and ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ during this period. It spreads the joy of the season.

 

Ramadan is a great time to be in Qatar. It brings people together and encourages good deeds. Want to know more about Ramadan and the various activities on offer? Please visit ramadan.qa for all the information you need.