Western expatriates in the United Arab Emirates have been reminded to take extra care in respecting the local customs as we enter into the holy period of Ramadan.
The month of Ramadan is the most sacred period of worship for Muslims, and in the already strict UAE, Westerners who fall afoul of customs could find themselves in a serious legal situation.
In fact, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has created a special advice page on its website urging westerners in the UAE to be vigilant to not cause offence. During Ramadan Muslims are required abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daytime hours. Although expats and foreigners are not expected to participate behind closed doors, there is an underlying belief that they should follow the rules when in public as a show of respect to the religious beliefs.
Ramadan is treated with the utmost of respect in the UAE, and its strict laws become even stricter during the sacred month. Earlier in the year a British expatriate in Dubai was dragged in front of a court and fined for making disparaging remarks about Ramadan on her Facebook page.
Westerners getting in trouble in the UAE is nothing new, and a number of UAE newspapers have actually published special expat-etiquette guides in a bid to make sure minimal problems occur.
If you’re in the UAE on business or expect to be travelling there soon, consult our detailed City Guides on the region to get information on how the culture can affect expats.