Contrary to common belief, business does not stop during Ramadan. We often hear stories where people are super busy in the lead up to Ramadan trying to finalise everything before the Holy Month, otherwise it won’t get done until after Eid Al Fitr.
Yes, business is slower but it certainly doesn’t stop. Like most things, it comes down to understanding and being respectful of other cultures and values.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, and is the month for spiritual reflection, forgiveness, humility, patience, praying and spending time with family and friends. Each day during this Holy Month, from sunrise to sunset, Muslims all over the world abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and from participating in anything that is considered ill-natured or excessive.
If you are invited to an Iftar or a Suhour this is a sign of friendship and trust, so it is advisable to accept – not only will it help build stronger relationships, which is key to being successful in the region, but it will also provide you with a traditional cultural experience.
Working during Ramadan
According to the UAE Labour Law (Article 65), working hours are reduced by two hours per day during Ramadan. Office hours are usually 9am-3pm. This can vary from company to company and Governmental departments, so ensure you check in advance before planning any trips or meetings.
Shopping malls and restaurants generally tend to have extended hours in the evenings, sometimes up to or beyond midnight. Some restaurants will have special dispensation to stay open during the day to cater for the non-fasting workforce, but they will cover the windows and doors for privacy and to be mindful of those fasting.
Fasting – especially during the summer months – is taxing on your Muslim colleagues, tiredness and irritability is common as the body adjusts. Be mindful of this. Arrange meetings in the mornings when people are most focused and keep the meeting precise and to the point. Ensure you dress conservatively; this is particularly important for women, whose shoulders and knees should be covered. A gesture of a gift of dates or Arabic sweets is always well received during this time.
Driving during Ramadan poses some extra challenges. Tiredness and hunger play a part in reducing the alertness of those on the road – so be vigilant, in particular before Iftar when many are in a hurry to break the fast with their family and friends.
Ultimately, providing you remain respectful and culturally sensitive, you will find plenty of opportunities to build and strengthen relationships during Ramadan while opening yourself up to a rich and rewarding cultural experience.