Today is the first day of Ramadan, and as a non-Muslim expat living in Dubai, I am fortunate to gain a different perspective on this holiday than I would have otherwise had living back home in the United States.
To most people, Ramadan is an Islamic holiday that is marked by 30 days of fasting. But to those who practice Islam, or to those living in a Muslim country, the Holy Month is much more than just refraining from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Ramadan is also about a month of charity and giving. It marks a time in the Islamic lunar calendar when Muslims are encouraged to donate time and money towards those who are less fortunate. It is a time to be thankful for what you have in life, and to spread love and peace.
What is it like living in Dubai during Ramadan? This is my second Ramadan while living in Dubai, and the truth is that life isn’t much different than life outside of Ramadan. Sure, I cannot eat or drink in public from sunrise to sunset. My husband cannot smoke in public (truth be told, this makes me happy because it forces him to cut down on the amount of cigarettes he smokes). We cannot freshen our breaths with mints in public. But the city becomes nocturnal, something that is great when temperatures reach 115F in the summer. Iftar buffets become the hottest social gathering event each evening. We are reminded every day that we ought to be thankful for the wonderful things in our lives. We are reminded to give to those who are in need, and help those who cannot help themselves. It is a sentiment that is universal. No matter whether you’re a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or even Buddhist, giving back to the community is part of being a good person.
To experience Ramadan in Dubai as an expat is to come away with a better understanding about another religion and culture. I feel fortunate to experience this Holy Month again, and to celebrate with my friends who are observing the holiday. Be sure to give to charity and remember that volunteering is a great way to give back when you don’t have much money to give.
Life is short, share in the adventure!