Before coming to Qatar, I had heard of Ramadan but didn’t really know what it was about. All I knew was that it was a big holiday for Muslims. I doubt I could of told you when it was celebrated or what Muslims do during Ramadan. When I was doing my research, I read blog posts of other expats who lived in Qatar and that is when I began to learn. Ramadan in the Gulf region is different than it would be in the US. Not that the Muslims in either country are any more or less devote, but this is a Muslim country in which the government is guided by religion. If you don’t know, Muslims fast during the day during Ramadan. This means no eating, drinking, gum chewing, smoking or sexual relations for 30 days during the day. Here no one, regardless of religion, is allowed to eat or drink in public. This is the law. I am not sure what would happen in Qatar if you did. All the bars close and the one liquor store closes. Most restaurants are closed during the day and only open for Iftar, the breaking of the fast. Some hotels are able to serve food during the day and some places have delivery and take out. Most stores close in the middle of the day because the Muslims are napping late in the afternoon. Arab countries already keep much later hours than in the US and during Ramadan it becomes much later. They also only work about 6 hours a day, this the law as well.
What does this all mean for me? Well the obvious is that I can’t eat or drink in public during the day. At work the cafeteria is open but the doors are closed and door windows are covered. I can’t have coffee or water at my desk. The first few days were hard as I am used to having a drink at my desk all day. The week before Ramadan started I went to the liquor store. It was packed and the night before there was a line wrapped around the building. Even in the over 100 degree heat. I go out less which had been nice in some ways. I have saved money and worked on projects at home. I have eaten lunch with people at work that I didn’t used to and gotten know them better. Many people leave in the summer so that combined with Ramadan the traffic has been light during the day. Not so much late at night. Overall, I have enjoyed Ramadan. Feels like a restful time to me. Let’s see how it is next year.