Ramadan: The good, the bad and the hungry
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Muslims worldwide begin to observe the first day of Ramadan on Monday. As it turns out, Ramadan is not just a month in the year where you fast during the day, then spend the evening hours binging on kunafa. It is a special time where Muslims have a chance to give themselves a spiritual boost, spend more time with the family and just enjoy the overall feeling and vibes of Ramadan.

Even non-Muslims can benefit from this special month by participating in different cultural and religious traditions that are all about peace and togetherness. Moreover, the shorter working hours don’t hurt either.

The beauty of Ramadan in the UAE is that life slows down just a little bit. The traffic is lighter and the working hours are shorter. As a result, people have more time to be productive. Ramadan brings about a change in people’s demeanours, habits and of course, their schedules. Many residents find their daily routines slightly altered with a change in working hours, as well as changes to eating timings if they are fasting.

Gulf News spoke to a group of UAE residents about the positive things they would like to do with the extra time during Ramadan, and what they would generally like to see less of during the month ahead.

Menna Hani, 26, Emirati

Menna Hani

What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

There are a lot of things that I like to focus on during the month of Ramadan. However, if I had to pick one thing, it would definitely be the fact that I want to pray more often. Particularly because the working hours have decreased and things tend to slow down a bit, it becomes a lot easier to focus on getting more prayers in. It is a time when I like to become more spiritual, so I’ll try my best to never miss a prayer and definitely do a couple of extra ones whenever possible.

What is one thing you want to see less of during Ramadan?

I want to see less reckless driving. I think that people need to be more careful on the roads. The first week of Ramadan is always the most dangerous in my opinion. Everyone is hungry and you have “fasting and furious” happening on our highways, which is not good. The whole point of Ramadan is to be peaceful and careful in every aspect of life, especially on the road.

I think people should remember that there is no rush to get home when you leave your office at 3pm or 4pm. They should drive carefully. Those who do finish their working day from 6.30pm onwards should have a snack with you in the car. It will take off the pressure of having to rush home and risking your life and others.

Mahitab Hosny, 26, Egyptian

Mahitab Hosny

What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

One of the things I want to give a lot of attention to during Ramadan is reading the Quran. This point of the year, is a great time for me to try to read every page of our book. So after I get off work, I will try to read as much as possible. My goal is to do at least one chapter a day. I also like to use the month to spend more time with the important people in my life. I make sure to schedule gatherings, so that I can catch up with friends and family over iftars and suhoor. It is the best time for people to get together!

What is one thing you want to see less of during Ramadan?

Honestly, my biggest piece of advice for everyone is not to overeat. Despite popular opinion, food really is not the point of Ramadan. Yes we are in fact invited to big feasts and events, but the idea is to refrain yourself from food and to think of the less fortunate. The less fortunate do not have a buffet spread that they can enjoy after the sun sets, so we should ideally always keep them in mind. It really is the best time to detox and take care of your body and mind. My aim is to have a healthy and mindful Ramadan.

Alberto, 29, Mexican


What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

Although I am not a Muslim and I do not fast, I really enjoy Ramadan in the UAE. While most people get shorter Ramadan hours, I have my own business, therefore honestly and realistically, I never stop working. As a result, sadly, I don’t really benefit from shorter working hours to use for reading or exercise. So, the one thing I like to do during Ramadan, more than any other month of the year is dining out with my friends. I love going out for iftars, and stay out late to try some new suhoors. I also really love Ramadan sweets.

What is one thing you want to see less of during Ramadan?

I generally find Ramadan a very nice time in the UAE, but if I had to choose one thing that I would change, it would be maintain the status quo in terms of efficiency in business. Sometimes in Ramadan getting things done becomes a little more difficult, as some places close early and working hours are shorter, so it may take a little longer than usual to process documents, or achieve goals. I just wish things could be a bit more efficient during that time, but I completely understand that when people are fasting, they are running on less energy than usual, so it makes a lot of sense.

Hicham Younis, 33, Canadian-Lebanese

Hicham Younis

What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

Stay calm and carry on is always my interpretation of Ramadan. Sure it is important to be charitable and do good deeds, but I think we need to really focus on enjoying this month by being extra peaceful, tolerant and, as much as possible, not to get stressed or stress others around you out. It is also important for those who do not fast, to be aware and to appreciate those who are fasting. I think it is very important to simply enjoy the vibe of the month and just live and let others live.

What is one thing you want to see less of during Ramadan?

I want to see less overeating and food wastage this Ramadan. The whole month is about being balanced and modest, not overdoing it at a buffet. If you really think about it, Ramadan in my opinion is all about mind over matter. Just end your fast slowly, take your time enjoying your meal and do not overdo it on the food. Ramadan should be about the gatherings of friends and family, rather than the amount of food that you have on your table.

Zubair Haider, 39, Pakistani, marketing professional at a company in Dubai

Zubair Haider

What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

In Ramadan, I make it a point to eat healthy. Many people overeat at the time of ending the fast and they eat the ‘wrong’ type of food on an empty stomach — oily and spicy treats. You don’t want to go through Ramadan nights feeling too full and having acidity and indigestion during the day. So what we do at home is have a fruit salad and lemonade and water for ending the fast. For the predawn suhoor meal, we will have some bread and also include veggies in our diet. People should appreciate that Ramadan is a blessing, not a burden. So it’s an opportunity to set an example of good behaviour. Despite the hunger and thirst, you have to maintain a friendly attitude. After all, other people are fasting too and you should not do anything to provoke them. You should be a role model of behaviour for those fasting and not fasting. There’s really no need to get upset over small things just because you’re hungry and thirsty.

Maisoon Mubarak, 27, Egyptian

Maisoon Mubarak

What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

Ramadan is my favourite time of the year. I consider it a time of spiritual reflection. Although it is tempting, I try as much as I can to stay away from watching Ramadan TV shows. Although everyone sits together after iftar to watch the Ramadan specials, I will try to instead, focus on praying and to complete reading the Quran, too.

What is one thing you want to see less of during Ramadan?

In terms of what people should avoid during the blessed month — there are several things that I can point out, but if I had to focus on one thing, is that I thinkpeople should continue to work hard and efficiently during the month of Ramadan. My main advice would be not to use fasting as an excuse to work less, if anything, it should encourage us all to work to our fullest potential and deliver the best results.

Noha Massoud, 27, Egyptian

Noha Massoud

What is one good thing that you want to do more of during Ramadan?

Ramadan is a very spiritual time, so I will focus on all the important things like making sure I pray and read the Quran, but honestly one of my biggest goals is to get through the month in a healthy manner. I definitely take advantage of the extra time as much as I can, to get a workout. I prefer to train right before the Maghreb prayers. Exercising on an empty stomach is good for weight loss, so I will work out, ideally before iftar, so I can re-hydrate and eat good food to fuel my body straight after exercising.

What is one thing you want to see less of during Ramadan?

One bad thing that I notice every year is that many people sometimes feel like they should reward themselves with unhealthy junk food for iftar or suhoor because they haven’t eaten anything all day. I don’t condone people eating junk. My advice is that if you really have to have fast food, have it earlier in the night, rather than for suhoor. Eating junk food, fried food or sushi over suhoor, can make you very thirsty and does not compliment the fasting journey at all. I know it seems like an obvious point, but whenever I look around me, I see people eating badly and this defeats the purpose of Ramadan.

Hamdy Bahnasy, 39, Egyptian

Hamdy Bahnasy

What I have in mind this Ramadan is to take my children to the mosque. Children should also feel the spirit of Ramadan and enjoy the special atmosphere of the month. My generation, when we were children, used to go to the mosque. I remember we enjoyed it a lot. Yes, some children can cause a disturbance in the mosque sometimes, but generally children should go the mosque, especially in Ramadan.

Ramadan is not just about fasting from food and drink – it is also about abstaining from anger. When you’re hungry and thirsty, and you’re craving your coffee or tea, many people can get upset more quickly and easily. That should not happen – spiritual discipline is the whole point of Ramadan. No matter what you’re feeling inside, you should always greet people with a smile, not a frown.