Whether you are a Muslim or not the month of Ramadan is an important event in the Middle East. Culturally there is much to be learnt from expats and visitors to Qatar and the gulf region.
Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, with Muslims required to abstain from eating or drinking from dawn until sunset. All adult Muslims are required to fast for 30 days. Most Muslims will be fasting, although there are exceptions for certain individuals including new mothers and the infirm.
When is Ramadan in Doha 2018?
The Muslim Calendar is a lunar calendar and as such it is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, hence the starting date of Ramadan changes each year.
This year Ramadan is expected to start on 15th May 2018 in Doha Qatar, with the Eid Al’ Fitr festival expected to be on June 14th 2018. The Eid festival lasts for three days and is celebrated at events across the country.
Please note though that these dates are dependent on the sighing of the new moon and so there cannot be any certainty until nearer the time. However, official announcements are made closer to the time.
What happens on a typical day in Ramadan?
Muslims wake up at before dawn for suhoor (sometimes known as sohour) which is the pre-dawn meal. They pray the morning prayers, and will fast for the whole day. Muslims also increase their general Emaan (faith) by reading more Quran, attending lectures and learning more about their religion. They will also increase their good deeds and behaviour towards others, which is spiritually rewarded in the month of Ramadan.
In Qatar the Ramadan 2017 fasts are expected to last approximately 15 hours. At sunset the fast is broken with dates and a light Iftar meal. Later in the evening they will pray the evening prayers known as Tarawee, this is in addition to the usual daily five prayers.
Ramadan Tents and Buffet Feasts are legendary across the Middle East. However, it is important to note that these are local F&B and Hotel offerings. These don’t accurately reflect the Ramadan meal and experience within people’s homes. Ramadan meals are a sharing experience rather than a celebration of food itself. For Muslims Iftar is an opportunity to spend more time with family, whilst Suhoor is much calmer affair.
Celebrating Ramadan in Doha
Ramadan is an exciting time for those living in a Muslim country because there is an air of celebration and festivity. Ramadan is a time of celebration – families and friends share Iftar evening meals to break their fast. Non-Muslims neighbours are also included in the celebrations.
Charity is an important element of the Islamic faith, with deeds multiplied in the month of Ramadan. This encourages Muslims to focus on good deeds and sharing with the community.
In Doha everyone gets involved in the act of feeding others regardless of religion. Local charities and private individuals host Iftar tents to provide labourers and those in need with food to break their fasts. Members of the expat community also make Iftar food packs to distribute snacks and supplies to labourers.
For children it is an exciting time – there is food, family and festivities. In Qatar there are particular cultural traditions that provide endless entertainment to families. There will be Ramadan events in many public venues and local malls in Qatar. Expect larger events at Aspire Zone, The Pearl-Qatar, and Katara Cultural Village – details will be released closer to Ramadan.
The Ramadan Cannon is ceremoniously fired at sunset to mark the end of the fast. Expats and locals alike can see the cannon being fired at the national Wahhab Mosque, and in the Old Airport area. The occasion has turned into a festive event with army officials giving out treats to the younger children.
The children festival of Garangao occurs in the middle of Ramadan. It is a uniquely Qatari tradition where local children dress up in brightly coloured traditional clothing, and head out into the neighbourhood singing the Garangao song and receiving nuts and sweets from elders. It has become a bigger event with local and expat children taking part in festivities across Doha and Qatar.
Local hotels also get involved with elaborately designed Ramadan Tents for Iftar and Suhoor Buffets. These showcase a variety of cuisines and live cooking stations. They are similar to Friday Brunches, however there is a greater focus on regional dishes and entertainment.
We also want to emphasise that the month is a spiritual time with a focus on fasting, charity, and good deeds. That’s why the feasting after the long hours of fasting can be confusing for many expats – but as mentioned this is not reflective of the individual, but is rather a cultural and entertainment option.
We always advise you should never eat excessively (especially at the buffets) – it is not good for your health. We would also suggest to the fasting person to be careful to avoid too much oily or sugary foods as this can cause health issues. And if you have diabetes then you should always follow the guidance and advice of your medical practitioner.
What are Ramadan Tents?
Ramadan Tents are not real tents, rather they are inspired by Bedouin or Arabian themes and may include draping to give the feel of a tent. Most Ramadan Tents are housed within hotel ballrooms, restaurants or attached via an outdoors terrace.
Ramadan Tents are similar to Buffets food offerings, however there is a greater focus on ethnic and regional cuisine. In some buffets this includes Machboos, large platters of rice and camel meat, Arabic desserts and beverages such as Jallab.
Tips for Ramadan Tents, Iftar, and Suhoor:
A few important points to remember about spending Ramadan in Doha:
• Make sure you book in advance for Iftar or Suhoor events. The majority of locals visit friends and family for Iftar during the start of Ramadan – this means that it does get busier later on the month. Also some venues are famously popular and will get booked out very quickly.
• If you are arranging an Iftar or Suhoor for a larger group then always ask for a discount, whether you are going to a five star hotel restaurant or a local dining place. If you group is over 15 people you may be eligible for a discount. But do remember that Doha venues do have different policies regarding minimum numbers for private group bookings.
• Double-check the timings of the event you wish to attend, as Iftar and Suhoor event timings for Ramadan in Doha will be very different. Iftar events usually start from sunset until 8-9.00pm, depending on the venue. Suhoor timings usually begin from 9.00pm until midnight or 1-2am – again depends on the venue. Also you should remember that there may be different timings for a la carte menu service as there will always be a time limit for food orders. For example, venues open until 2.00am may stop taking food orders at 1.00am or 1.40am – so be sure to check.
• In Ramadan you will only have musical instruments and dance performances, although there may be some Arabic singing. Essentially the live entertainment offerings have an Arabic theme – with Tanoura dancers or instrumental bands. They may also only perform at certain times in the evening, so if the live entertainment options matter for your Ramadan Tent or Restaurant experience then check the details and timings with the venue when you book.
• Double-check the pricings of the event you wish to attend, as again Iftar and Suhoor events are very different. Usually Ramadan Suhoor events will be priced higher than Iftar events. If you want to go to a venue with Shisha then double check when booking about the availability and pricings.
•There is no alcoholic beverage service during the whole month of Ramadan. It will usually resume the first day of Eid, but check with each individual outlet.
• If you are planning on bringing children with you please consider Iftar options as Suhoor does start quite late. It is also worth knowing that these venues get really busy towards the middle of the fasting period, so if you prefer a family-friendly non-smoke environment you should take advantage of the quiet period and head out earlier in the month to Ramadan Tents and Iftar and Suhoor Meals.
• Generally the venues don’t get smoky until very late in the evening, so if you are looking for smoke-free Ramadan venues for a family-friendly fun then go earlier in the day. Also double-check with the venue about the pricings for children as per their age group – some venues don’t charge for under 5s.
• When booking on the telephone make sure to take down the name of the person who you made your booking with and make sure they confirm the correct details. If possible ask them to send you a confirmation email of your booking in case of any issues. Also make sure you cancel reservations as soon as possible if you cannot make them. If you have any issues when you arrive at the venue ask to speak to the manager and above all be polite and remain calm.
• Be sure to check it for 2 for 1 Entertainer offers on buffets which you may be able to use for Ramadan buffets – be sure to ask when you call up to make a booking. If you have been really wanting to enjoy Ramadan in Doha by trying out an Iftar or Suhoor at a Ramadan Tent then choose wisely based on your vouchers!
• Many of the hotels have specials promotions and deals during Ramadan for combined Room and Dinner packages. If you are looking for Ramadan Room packages be sure to check out if Iftar or Suhoor is included in the promotion.
• The details of timings and pricings may change last minute, so always check with the venue when you make your booking. If you are dining without a reservation you can call ahead to check this information.
• Make sure you don’t run too late to enjoy your event of choice. Some venues will open up at sunset, while others may open after Maghrib prayers which will be at least another 15 to 30 minutes more. Venues will also have at least an hour break between Iftar and Suhoor to clean up and prepare for the next event; if you arrive early you should be okay waiting in the lobby or waiting area.
• Do keep in mind that the Doha roads will be even busier than normal with more cars on the road as residents head to evening prayers or to break their fast – so plan ahead and most importantly drive safe!
• We all love five star treatment and the hotels in Doha have a range of options for Iftar/Suhoor with set menus and/or Ramadan Tents. However, don’t forget your local restaurant or eatery may also have its own offers or special menus for Ramadan – so always ask. Expect most restaurants in the Malls to have special Iftar menus available at set prices.
• For people who are not fasting there will be some hotel restaurants open offering a la carte menus or breakfast buffets during the day. Also takeaway options may be available during the afternoon at some restaurants and local cafes. Make sure to check the timings and don’t just turn up – you may expect your favourite restaurant to be open, only to find it has been closed for Ramadan. Always double-check!
We will keep updating this feature to include details about Ramadan dining options, including Ramadan Iftars, so be sure to keep checking back!
If there are any options we have missed you can keep us updated by commenting below or sending us a message on our social media channels:
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