We're fast approaching Ramadan here in Abu Dhabi.
It's an important time of year when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
Whether you are practising or not, it's a period of time that we can all get involved in, and there are some details that everyone in the capital should be aware of.
Here's what you need to know about the Ramadan dates and times this year, as well as some key questions answered.
This year, it's expected to start on Sunday May 5 and go on until Tuesday June 4. However, because the dates are determined by the sighting of a new moon, those could change slightly.
The start and end of Ramadan will be declared the day before following observations by a moon sighting committee.
At that point, many businesses will introduce different opening and closing times – and it's also important for people living in or visiting the city to be respectful and to take note of certain customs.
Ramadan 2019 dates and schedule:
When is Ramadan 2019?
On or around Sunday May 5 2019 to Tuesday June 4 2019.
When is Eid al-Fitr?
On or around Wednesday June 5 2019 to Thursday June 6 2019.
When is Eid al-Adha?
On or around Monday August 12 2019 to Wednesday August 14 2019.
Dates are subject to change based on moon sighting
Your guide to Ramadan 2019
Ramadan 2019 hours
Many businesses will have different opening and closing times during Ramadan 2019. This includes shopping malls, grocery stores, cinemas and more.
Make sure you double check times before you head out to avoid disappointment.
What is Eid and why are there two?
Eid al-Fitr translates as the ‘festival of breaking the fast’ and happens immediately after Ramadan, with festivity, day-time feasts and family gatherings.
Customarily, family and friends dress up in new Eid clothes and visit each other’s houses bearing gifts. (expect traffic to increase in the days leading up to this, as people hurry to get new clothes, haircuts, henna and buy all the ingredients for their feasts).
Many families will also visit the poor and needy in their own communities to make sure they have enough food and water to celebrate themselves. Charity is known as zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, and is particularly significant during Ramadan and the Eids.
Eid al-Adha is the second celebration in the year and translates as the ‘festival of sacrifice’. It’s approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan. Both Eids are national public holidays that typically last three days (often longer for some sectors), so expect government departments, shops and businesses to be closed.
What is iftar and suhoor?
Iftar is the meal to break the fast after sunset. Typically, people will enjoy dates, dried apricots and Ramadan juices, before heading to evening prayer.
After that, large meals are the norm, usually with family and friends. Suhoor is a meal taken just before sunrise, before the day of fasting starts.
Many hotels host smaller buffets, traditional activities and more to celebrate until the small hours of the morning.
What is the etiquette with regard to eating and drinking if you’re not fasting?
During Ramadan, drinking and eating in public can even attract a fine or a reprimand from the police.
If an individual wants to eat or drink in daylight hours during Ramadan it has to be done indoors and out of sight or in designated screened-off areas within public places.
What are the rules regarding dress during Ramadan?
It is recommended that both men and women dress conservatively during the month of Ramadan. Not doing so may offend those who are fasting.
Individuals must refrain from wearing revealing and/or tight clothing and at the very least ensure shoulders and knees are well covered.
Can non-Muslims get involved in Ramadan?
Definitely. In the Gulf region many iftar and suhoor events are set up all over the country as a way to bring the entire community together.
Even if you haven’t been fasting, you are still welcome to join. Here are a few ways you can get involved...
• Exchange Ramadan greetings, especially at the beginning of the month. The word ‘Kareem’ in the phrase ‘Ramadan Kareem’ is the equivalent to ‘generous’, so the expression means ‘Wish you generous Ramadan’.
• Get into the charitable spirit by donating to Ramadan camps, care packages and other charity organisations.
• Fast along with your Muslim colleagues for a day or two and break the fast together at the time of iftar.