When I talk to people about living in Qatar, one of the first topics of conversation is about what life is like during Ramadan Qatar. As I am asked this question so often I thought it would be useful to put together the essential guide for anyone, visitor or expat about life during Ramadan in Qatar!
What is Ramadan?
If you have never lived in the Middle East before, you may have a limited knowledge of what Ramdan is, apart from the obvious fasting element. So here is a quick overview.
Ramadan is known as the Holy Month and fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. Between sunrise and sunset, muslims can not eat or drink anything. Through fasting, a person’s faith is strengthened and soul cleansed!
Ramadan, however, is about more than abstinance in food but also in music, tobacco and sex. As with any time of year in the Middle East, PDAs are a no-no but more so during the Holy Month.
Currently Ramadan is a summer event, which makes it especially difficult given the long days and the heat. Ramadan moves around 10 days earlier every year. This year – 2017 – Ramadan is expected to start on or around 26th May. This isn’t a precise date as with many things in the Islamic calendar, it is dependent on the moon. The lunar calendar is very important to Islam. Ramadan in Qatar will only begin when a new moon is sighted by a Muslim and reported to the Ministry for Islamic Affairs.
Not all Muslims are required to fast during the Holy Month with exceptions being the pregnant, young, and ill.
Requirements for non-Muslims in Ramadan Qatar
Although not expected to fast, expats and tourists must respect the holy month. As such there is no eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours. This goes for gum as well! In your own home however you are free to eat and drink as you wish! However please be mindful of overlooked spaces such as gardens and balconies.
All mall food courts and coffee shops are shut until after sundown. Some malls will have a coffee shop operating a takeaway service but it is important any purchased goods are not consumed in public. Please remember that your car is not considered a private space and as such eating and drinking shouldn’t be done there.
If you are looking for food or drink outside of the home during the day, your only option is a hotel. Many of the 5* hotels will have blacked out areas where non-Muslim guests and visitors can dine and drink. Many still operate their business lunches which can be a nice excuse to try these out given the shortened working day (during Ramadan Qatar Government workers are required to work a maximum of 5 hours per day and private sector workers 6 hours a day).
My husband always swears by Quickbites in City Centre as the only coffee shop open in West Bay during Ramadan. You can read more about our restaurant guide here
Doha News previously provided a guide to a list of hotels that were opened during the day. If this is released this year I will let you know otherwise please ring the hotels to find out information.
During Ramadan Qatar, no alcohol is served anywhere in the country, even the 5* hotels which are permitted to serve alcohol the rest of the year! Also, residents with an alcohol license should be aware that the QDC – Qatar Distribution Centre – is closed for the entire Holy Month!
There are exceptions to the outdoor eating rules for non-Muslims. Pregnant and breastfeeding women wouldn’t be expected to fast but it is better to be discrete if you require water or food during the day. The same rules can be said for children. For small children there shouldn’t be any issues with feeding or drinking in public.
As Ramadan, now falls during term time I am not sure what the requirements would be regarding non-Muslim children at lunch time. If you can provide any illumination that would be greatly received.
Hamad International Airport, Doha
Landside operates the same rules to the rest of Qatar regarding the shutting of restaurants and no public eating or drinking requirements. Once you are airside however you can expect that the eateries will be open. However there may be limitations on alcohol being served.
Doha Ramadan Tents
One of my favourite things about Ramadan Qatar is the many Ramadan tents which are open at Iftar and Suhoor.
Iftar is the meal taken directly after sundown and is known as the breaking of the fast. An iftar meal usually starts with water and dates. I’m not sure why but in Qatar dates must be eaten in odd numbers, so three are usually served. After this initial eating, prayers are usually conducted followed by a larger meal. The Ramadan tents usually operate at the 5* hotels and are extravagant affairs! Usually served buffet style. I will be updating this section with Ramadan Tent Reviews as we attend them during the Holy Month. We recently visited attended the Ramadan Tent at the Grand Hyatt for Suhoor. You can read all about it here.
Other food outlets, will often run Iftar offers. But be considerate to others who may have been fasting all day when dining out at Iftar. Also in the final hour or so before fasting breaks, the driving on the roads can be pretty erratic. We usually delay or go early if we are heading out to avoid this!
Some hotels offer the same meal at Suhoor, which is the last meal before fasting beginnings again. Please remember that costs differ from iftar and suhoor, the latter being more expensive. Also give the timings iftar might be a more family friendly option.
Thing to consider
Be more mindful about clothing to show your respect. For the past few years, there has been a campaign in Qatar known as Reflect Your Respect! This campaign teaches visitors about proper dress during the Holy Month and can often be seen talking to people in malls. I have written a small post about how my wardrobe has changed since moving to the Middle East. For ideas and inspiration please check out the post here! But in summary shoulders and knees should be covered at all times. No cleavage and while tight clothes aren’t specifically banned, you should show respect for your host country.
Make sure you have checked with your workplace regarding Ramadan Hours. In Qatar governmental companies will only work for 5 hours a day and private companies 6 by law.
Check shop opening times, this may change dramatically during Ramadan.
Supermarkets are usually open for extended hours and are open even during daylight!
Events in Qatar for the Family
While most things are closed during the day, in the evening (if your little one can stay up) there are many events on offer.
Every night at sundown a canon is fired to signal the end of fast. You can go along and watch this
Anyone who has been to Doha before will know that the Qataris love their cars! After fasting, many Qataris will drive their rare or most prozed cars along the corniche as a parade. Many visitors and expats alike go along to watch the spectacle.
The most important date in the diary for any visitor or expat with a family is Garangoa. Garangao is usually held on the 14th night of Ramadan and I have heard it described as The Middle East halloween. Garangoa is a traditional children’s party held once the fast has been broken. On Garangao children get dressed up (more traditional dress than costume), carry a bag around their neck singing songs and knocking on doors. Traditionally children are given nuts but now more likely receive candy.
Many of the cultural authorities and centres and even malls will have Garangoa celebrations. Qatar Foundation usually hosts a large one on education city. It is a great way for children to experience and learn about Ramadan.
Ramadan ends with the Eid celebration! NB there are in fact two Eid holidays, the first Eid is Eid al-fitr. Eid al fitr is a public holiday – three days for private companies but up to a week for governmental workers. Most expats choose to leave for the holiday. Why not come back later this week to check out our Eid Escapes post!
What do you during Ramadan?
Travelling elsewhere in the Middle East during Ramdan? Why not check out Our Globetrotters Guide to Ramadan in the UAE!
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