Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, during which observant Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Because Qatar is a Muslim country, things depart a bit from their regular programming during this month.
Here are some key things to know about Ramadan in Qatar:
People care a lot more about the moon
This is because the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, and months begin with sightings of the crescent moon. Ramadan will last 29 or 30 days, depending on the next sighting of the new moon. It will end with a huge, days-long celebration called Eid Al Fitr (festival of fast-breaking) around July 28.
Work hours are shortened
Government offices run on a five-hour schedule, from 9am to 2pm, during Ramadan – though some agencies are open at night. Private sector employees are supposed to work a shortened six hours a day, for a total of 36 hours/week, according to the Labor Law.
However, business continues as usual in some workplaces. In this instance, employees are typically entitled to overtime compensation.
There’s no eating/drinking in public
It’s illegal in Qatar to consume food, drink beverages, or chew gum in public spaces during Ramadan. Because of this reason, the majority of restaurants here are closed during lunchtime this month, though some do offer takeaway menus.
In terms of the workplace, some are more strict than others when it comes to eating/drinking. Many Muslims don’t mind if those who aren’t fasting (non-Muslims and Muslims who are ill, or women who are pregnant or menstruating) consume food or drink beverages in front of them.
Others may take offense, and in those offices co-workers may be asked to take their meals in one designated spot (a lunchroom, for example). Some employees may decide to wait until they get home to eat, which could be easier due to the shortened work hours.
There’s a renewed focus on food
Though Ramadan is technically supposed to be about self-reflection and going without, it’s also a very social and festive month in Qatar. While many people spend more time with family at at the mosques, lots of residents also take advantage of the lavish buffets Qatar’s hotels put on during the month.
Because people are cooking and hosting parties more often, Qatar has imposed price restrictions on hundreds of food items during this month – though those restrictions appear to be unevenly enforced.
It’s important to note that hospitals in Qatar often see an uptick in patients suffering from stomach problems in Ramadan due to overeating. Doctors advise avoiding fried food and heavy meals when breaking a fast, and encourage drinking lots of water after the sun sets to avoid dehydration from the hot weather.
This Ramadan is going to be long and hot
Qatar doesn’t have it as bad as Europe and North America in terms of how long its fast goes – but 15 hours of no food or water in the summertime is going to surely take its toll on much of the population here.
Taking into account the shortened hours, the hot weather and long days, it’s likely that productivity will drop significantly over the next 30 days. So it’s better to anticipate a more sluggish pace and be pleasantly surprised if your government paperwork or other things on the to-do list are accomplished this month.
Nighttime traffic will increase
Especially because Ramadan falls in the summer this year (the lunar calendar is shorter than the 365-day solar calendar, so Ramadan’s dates change annually), fasting people are more likely than ever to hibernate indoors during the daytime.
But that means while traffic is ok during the day, it really picks up at night. Around sunset, when it’s time to break the fast, a lot of people will be rushing to dinners or home to eat, so watch out for reckless driving.
And after nighttime prayers, expect the roads to be congested with people heading to evening buffets and other activities for several hours (8pm to midnight).
Non-Muslims can partake too
During the first week of Ramadan, Hyatt Plaza holds a Fast-a-Thon, inviting non-Muslims to try fasting for a day to raise money for charity.
This year, there will be an orientation session Friday, July 4 at 4pm at the mall’s food court. Fasting will take place on Saturday and there will be a free iftar at 6pm in the food court that day, along with activities like face painting and henna for kids. For every person who signs up to fast, QR200 will be donated by Hyatt Plaza and RAF to impoverished people in African countries.
Children under 14 years old who participate will get QR100 gift certificates to Jungle Zone. To register, attend the orientation session, email [email protected] or call 44999666. More information can be found here.
Entertainment options abound
Qatar is going big on Ramadan activities this year. On July 3, Katara opens a festival that includes religious workshops, theatrical shows and a beach soccer tournament. It is also hosting a fan zone for those who want to check out the final World Cup matches over the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, Aspire Zone is also holding a month-long festival with religious programming, sports activities for men, women and children and swimming.
Other Ramadan traditions observed in Qatar include:
- The firing of a cannon at sunset to signify the breaking of the fast. This used to take place daily at the General Post Office parking lot in West Bay, and is usually a gathering spot for residents because it’s a fun (and loud) way to know it’s time to eat. It’s now happening at the state mosque near TV Roundabout. There’s also a cannon in the Old Airport area.
- Garangao celebrations. Both Katara and Aspire this year will hold special activities for children on the 14th of Ramadan to mark Garangao, which is kind of like Halloween without the ghouls and goblins. Across the Gulf, kids typically dress up in traditional clothes and knock on neighbors’ doors to receive nuts and candy, while singing a special Garangao song.
Qatar goes dry during Ramadan
The sole place to buy alcohol for home consumption – the Qatar Distribution Center – is closed for the month (which is why there were such long queues outside the warehouse this weekend). Hotel restaurants also stop selling booze during this time.
There are also no new releases in movie theaters until Eid time (which caused consternation a few years ago when the final Batman movie came out late in Qatar and the UAE).
There are new restrictions in the mosque
The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs has said residents cannot collect donations at mosques without obtaining permission. Religious lessons and lectures can not be conducted without being authorized by the Ministry, and copies of the Quran, religious books and fliers can not be distributed without permission.
Those who wish to host iftars for the breaking of the fast at mosques, or who wish to partake in the 10-day Itikaf (a period of retreat in a mosque) at the end of Ramadan must also clear these actions with authorities. Finally, Awqaf is urging parents to keep young children at home to avoid disrupting evening prayers.
What would you add to this list? Thoughts?
Is the most important question not – “when does start?” know one knows… The golf club started on Wednesday, the coffee shop started yesterday.
Fasting begins tomorrow – Sunday!
No.11 many people put on weight during Ramadan. Despite the fact you are fasting during day light hours, the serious over eating that take place once the fast is broken is something to behold. The irony is not lost in me.
No. 12 many expats end up drinking more during Ramadan due to the huge stocks purchased through QDC, the many house parties, the shorter work hours and the boredom of Ramadan for many
No.13. Do not under any circumstances drive anywhere around sunset, unless you have a death wish!
Good point, missed that one and this.
No.14 most feeble excuse for causing a car crash and killing people during Ramadan. ‘I was rushing home to break my fast’
“Instead I became disabled” Hoooray! Worth it 10/10 would do again.
NOW WHERE IS MY FOOD.
The carnage of accidents seen the next morning is truly pitiful and heartbreaking. A lot of the embassies issuing warnings about this.
It truly is, I can only think of three reasons for it.
1. They have no respect for their fellow man
2. They are too ignorant to understand what they are doing
3. They are trying to reach god quicker.
Also don’t forget that the hospital emergency rooms are often overrun in the evenings due to gastro problems: basically people breaking their fast by stuffing themselves and then getting ill, rather than following medical advice and starting lightly.
If you think you need to go to the emergency room for something else, go before 9pm.
That and the dangerous traffic at dusk aside, Ramadan is always a lot of fun in Qatar even for non-Muslims. The hotels offer specials for lunch, Iftar with friends are fantastic social occasions, the TV viewing gets better, people are generally trying to be nicer, and Qtel is always offering special prices conveniently announced by text message. Well, the last one is a joke, but it is a good time. The heat will hold things back a bit, but in about six years the weather will be perfect.
What ever it be, we muslims can not forget that it is one of the most important pillar of islam…And what ever happens we have to thank Allah (swt)…..May Allah(swt) give all hidayath and show the straight path..Ameen
‘productivity will drop significantly over the next 30 days’…….*chuckles*
I thought fasting in Islam was considered to be a means of practising self-control. And also a way of experiencing what hunger is all about, sympathising with the poor and the needy, and thanking god for everything you have received in life. I don’t understand how fasting for how many ever hours then stuffing yourself full of food achieves either. Have I got it wrong? Can someone enlighten me?
I as am perplexed by this as you are. I always had a different perception of Ramadan, and I really respected what I thought the intent was, until I moved here. But now that I see how it is practiced, I’m struggling to see how this is a month of a “struggle” for our fasting friends in Qatar.
I do pity any fasting construction worker; even with reduced hours, spending any amount of time in the heat without water would be a struggle, but other that those individuals, it seems more like a month long party. I almost envy the amount of time they get to spend celebrating with family, not to mention the complete forgiveness if they decide to work no hours at all (which at my work-place happens all the time without ANY question to the individual, or even mention that it happened).
The facts that most “fasting” people gain weight; hospitals are full of sick over-eaters; and the demand for food far exceeds the supply to such an extent that there have to be government imposed fixed pricing, all seem to contradict what I thought the intent and meaning of Ramadan should be. But I acknowledge that I do not know all of the facts, so surely there is something I am missing here.
The amount of food thrown away in Qatar during Ramadan is truly staggering. Enough to feed a third world country for a month.
But hey, who knows the real meaning of Christmas. Did Santa Claus die on the cross in vain? It is now just one big excuse to drink and eat too much. I guess humans are the same everywhere.
Amazing discussion between people who don’t fast… So many assumptions…
I said in my post, Osama, that I may have gotten it wrong because I am not Muslim and am purely going by what I hear and read. I would appreciate any feedback from someone who practices Islam.
We don’t need to be judgemental Osama, you can understand how a non muslim can be perplexed by what they see, although not all families overindulge at Ftoor, you cannot deny that it works against what religion teaches us in self control when it comes to break your fast. Grantley, you are correct to assume that SOME do go overboard, but many families try and are sensible when breaking their fast. In the end its a holy month for prayer, self reflection, reconnecting spiritually, being closer to family and friends, forgiveness and most of all feeling what the deprived and needy feel.
Went to see the cannon tonight. It was not at the post office. Someone said it was in the old airport area. Does anyone have any information about a new location?