By Velvet from Must Love Dust
Ramadan in Qatar
Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims which involves a number of lifestyle changes. The aim is to bring oneself closer to God through behaviour.
Qatar is just 1 of the 50 countries where Islam is the religion of the majority. Here, the Muslim faith is everywhere. People live and breathe it, so when Ramadan arrives, the habits of the whole country are affected.
Many People who observe Ramadan go without pleasures such as food, drink and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset for a whole month. Nothing passes their lips – the really devout don’t even brush their teeth!
Just to give you an idea of what a commitment this is: in 2012 in Qatar, Ramadan will start around 18 July. The average temperature at this time will be 45°C. The sun will rise at 4.30 am and set at about 6.00 pm. That means many are going 14 hours in the searing heat without a drop of water for an entire month.
And while it might sound dreary and demanding, those living in the Arab world see it as an auspicious time of great celebration. It’s a happy time. Sure, during the day it’s all very solemn, but come sunset it’s all about eating, drinking and generally being merry! Families pray and eat together every night and gifts are given.
Ramadan in Qatar: Expat Challenges
As if moving from Australia to live in Qatar wasn’t a big enough culture shock, I experienced my first Ramadan less than a month after my arrival in Doha. The idea of it filled me with trepidation.
Other expats merely shrugged it off – it seems that 1 Ramadan is enough to prepare you for all future ones. But I had so many questions: When will I be able to buy my groceries? What do I have to wear? Will everyone still be working? How can anyone go a WHOLE DAY without eating?!
So, how does all this affect the non-Muslim visitor and expat?
To be honest, it can be pretty tense. Non-Muslims are expected to follow many of the customs of Ramadan. Our clothing must cover us from wrists to ankles, we’re not allowed to touch in public and we’re expected to tone down our general demeanour.
Maintaining these standards can be slightly arduous, but then again, Ramadan in Qatar is a great experience and fantastic reminder of where we are. For 1 month our lives are turned upside down.
Highlights and lowlights of Ramadan in Qatar
No eating or drinking during Ramadan
The good news is that non-Muslims are allowed to eat and drink but just not in public. If we’re eating at home we are urged to close the windows and not cook anything too fragrant, so we save the curries for another time!
Many restaurants close during the daylight hours and any that stay open keep curtains drawn so that food cannot be seen from the outside. At my work they use hospital screens at the entrance to the staff cafeteria to hide all the coffee addicts! In times of desperation I may or may not have been known to hide out in the bathroom for a cheeky sip of water!
- Hospital screens hiding my work cafe during Ramadan