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Ramadan for Non Muslim Expats in the Middle East

Ramadan is a holy month where practicing Muslims all over the world fulfill their religious obligation by fasting for 30 days, from sunrise till sunset, to cleanse their bodies of any impurities and to empathize with the less fortunate on a spiritual level.

While non-Muslims are NOT required to partake in fasting with their Muslim colleagues, neighbors and friends, there are a few changes that must be considered and respected in the month of Ramadan. This short guide will summarize the major changes that take place in a Muslim country, and will help non-Muslim expats navigate through their first Ramadan.


Greet your Muslim friends by saying “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak”, which means that you wish them a blessed Ramadan.

Ramadan for Muslims – Quick Facts:

Practicing Muslims fast from dawn (Fajr prayer) till dusk (Maghrib prayer) everyday for 30 days. They refrain from eating, drinking or smoking during these times, along with any negative behavior such as lying or swearing.

To start their fast, Muslims enjoy a pre-fast meal before the Fajr prayer called Suhoor. After the Maghrib prayer, they break their fast with a feast called Iftaar.

The end of Ramadan is marked by the religious holiday “Eid Al Fitr”, which is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. In Muslim countries, this is a public holiday – the number of days off depends on your employer, but is generally 3 days.

Ramadan for Non-Muslims – Quick Facts:

Muslim countries have certain laws that ban specific behaviors in the month of Ramadan, so it is important to be mindful of them and respect the laws and traditions of the country you reside in. Here are a few rules to remember:

  • Do not eat, drink or smoke in public during fasting hours.
  • Do not partake in any public displays of affection.
  • Avoid swearing, dancing or listening to music out loud (without headphones) in public and showing any aggressive behavior.
  • Dress respectfully and conservatively in public.
Other things to keep in mind:
  • The working day is typically shortened for all employees, usually with a later start and an earlier end.
  • All employees enjoy the public holiday at the end of Ramadan for Eid-Al-Fitr.
  • All restaurants and stores are typically closed during fasting hours. They open at/after Iftaar and are open till later on in the night.
  • Grocery stores are open even during fasting hours.
  • You can enjoy all of your regular activities in a private setting, like your home or a designated area that your employer has allocated for you to eat in.

We hope this short guide was helpful, but if you have any other questions do not hesitate to ask your Muslim colleagues and friends for guidance, who would be happy to help!

Ramadan Kareem from MNM Medical Recruiters Canada!

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