How some UAE expats are cutting costs this Ramadan

With rising living costs, some are planning to skip on lavish iftars and flashy gifts

Gulf News

Dubai: In the UAE, the month of Ramadan is not only marked by a 15-hour fast — but by lots and lots of spending.

For middle class expats, there are the typical round of iftar feasts in traditional, lantern-lit tents set up at hotels. In Dubai, higher-end deals often run from Dh180-250 per person.

And then, when Eid looms — a festival that marks the end of the fasting month — there’s a fresh round of spending on gifts. New clothes and sweets are common purchases.

Then during the month, there are normal little luxuries which can cost more during Ramadan.

“I am a typical Arab with a shisha obsession, especially after Iftar,” says Shahd Bargouthi, a Jordanian expat who lives in Dubai.

“Most Ramadan tents have a minimum charge of Dh100 to Dh150, or even Dh200 which makes it hard for me and my husband to spend this amount on daily basis.”

Instead, to save cash, she’s plans to spend her evenings at home, with her own shisha pipe — “and have TV as my best friend.”

Due to people spending more time indoors, television shows soar in popularity during Ramadan.

Keeping it simple

Some feel that Ramadan, which Muslims regard as the holiest month of the year, isn’t the best time to spend cash.

“In Ramadan, I have iftar and go for small outings usually in a friendly gathering or just a simple cup of coffee,” says Ahmad Bin Al Shaikh, a Sharjah-based Emirati.

“I do not go to restaurants for Iftar. Rarely, maybe just once in the entire month.”

Then, during the last 10 days of the fast, when evening prayers intensify, Shaikh does not go out at all.

He plans to spend less this year — “less than a thousand a week” — because of the summer holidays right after.

The month is also an opportunity to be generous with others, instead of just yourself, says Nisrin Arsiwala, an Indian expat who lives in Dubai

“Ramadan is a month to indulge in spiritual inspirations, rather than extravagant iftars and gifts.”

“Given the economic situation, I will certainly hold tight onto my spending habits, but at the same time try my best to offer as much charity as I can.”

People who open their wallets wide in Ramadan miss the spirit of the fasting month — and waste money, according to a Dubai-based blogger.

This time of the year, it’s tempting to bend to social pressure and host friends at grand Iftars, says Deepak Machado.

“I believe many would appreciate a low key home dinner rather than the 6 course meals at restaurants.”

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