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 2017?
The Muslim Calendar is a lunar calendar and as such it is difficult to set dates for the start of Ramadan. This year Ramadan is expected to start on 27th May 2017 in Doha Qatar, with the Eid Al’ Fitr festival expected to be on June 25th 2017. 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.