Abu Dhabi: Residents in Abu Dhabi are welcoming the decision to allow restaurants and cafes to serve food openly during Ramadan.

New guidelines have been issued at certain malls in the capital, ending the long-standing tradition that prevented eateries from serving customers in plain sight of fasting Muslims during Ramadan.

The change has come about towards the end of Ramadan, with restaurants and cafes removing their partitions at popular malls such as Abu Dhabi Mall and Yas Mall.

A supervisor at an Abu Dhabi Mall cafe said they received a circular from the mall management regarding the issue.

“We’ve operated during the daytime hours throughout the month. Two days ago, we were asked to remove the partitions,” she said.

At Yas Mall, a restaurant supervisor said the removal of partitions hadn’t really changed things. “We don’t see a whole lot of customers during the daytime in Ramadan, but we’ve been asked to remove the partitions, and we’ve complied accordingly,” he said.

Not all malls and restaurants are serving customers openly, though. For instance, partitions remained in place in Al Wahda Mall, and a cafe server said it had heard of no changes to existing rules.

Most residents when asked about the development welcomed the change.

“Personally, I don’t mind one way or another,” said I.M., a 35-year-old engineer from Sri Lanka. “The sight of someone eating, or food on display, doesn’t bother me when I am fasting, and it’s a restaurant’s decision how they want to serve customers,” he added.

Others said they strongly preferred traditional Ramadan practises.

“All my life, I’ve seen restaurants keep food out of sight during the day. They were open, but you just had to remain discreet as a sign of respect to those fasting. That’s a beautiful gesture and I don’t know why it has to change now,” said R. Bhatt, 30, a project manager from India who was born and brought up in Abu Dhabi.

Mohammad Z, 63, an entrepreneur from Bangladesh, had the same opinion. “These Ramadan practises are unique to the UAE, and characterise the tremendous respect the country has for all people. I don’t think they should be changed, especially as eateries are still allowed to serve customers behind the partitions and shutters. I feel as if removing the partitions almost violates the spirit of the holy month,” he said.

It is unclear at present how the new restaurant practises align with the UAE’s penal code, which calls for fines of up to Dh2,000, or a month in prison, for persons eating or drinking in public during Ramadan.