Expat guide to the holy month of Ramadan

Muslims all over the world commenced their holy month of Ramadan yesterday, a special time of year, it denotes a time of prayer and fasting and allows Muslims to commemorate the divine revelation received by the Prophet Mohammad.


During the month of Ramadan Muslims all over the world enter into a process by which they can heighten their spirituality. During the Ramadan month they refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and marital relations during daylight hours as well as trying to refrain from other bad habits, such as swearing, lying and getting angry. It is believed that by exercising such self-constraint assists them to develop self-control and allow them to focus on their spirituality.

Muslims will fast each day from Imsak, which is just before sunrise, until Maghrib, at sunset. All adults are expected to fast except for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, having their period, suffering from serious illness or mentally ill.

Expats and Ramadan

Expatriates living in predominantly Muslim countries will observe some changes in their day-to-day lives. Here are some of the things you may expect:

  • If you employ domestic help or other staff who are Muslim you will need to be aware of their diet during the month of Ramadan and the impact that this may have on their ability to perform their day-to-day tasks. Allow employees to complete any strenuous jobs first thing in the morning, after they have eaten, and respect the fact that they may grow tired in the afternoon due to the hour at which they have risen to have a meal before subuh.
  • You may find that many of the restaurants and bars in the area you are living are closed during the day. Those that are open will be screened from public view. Some places may stop serving alcohol completely during Ramadan.
  • Refrain from playing loud music at home or in your car and do not dance in public. This is considered to be highly disrespectful. You should also avoid swearing or getting angry.
  • Avoid revealing clothing.
  • In some countries, such as Indonesia, you will be expected to pay a one-month bonus to all domestic help and household staff near the end of the fasting month.
  • It is polite to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in front of those who are fasting.
  • In some countries, such as Dubai, it is illegal to eat and drink in public during the month of Ramadan. This can include chewing gum and includes any places where you can potentially be seen, including your car and balcony. Ensure that you check locally what you are and are not permitted to do during this holy month to avoid offending anyone or breaking the law.
  • The schedule for Imsak and Maghrib will usually be published in newspapers in predominantly Muslim regions.
  • You will hear the phrases “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” on a frequent basis throughout the month of Ramadan; these are traditional congratulatory greetings.
Author: ExpatInfoDesk