Culture Oman

Ramadan: Facts and Etiquette for Non-Muslims

June 6, 2016

Ramadan: Facts and Etiquette for Non-MuslimsRamadan is the ninth month on the Islamic Calendar and is celebrated by Muslims as time when the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. During this period, Muslims abstain from all food, drink, and pleasures between the hours of sunrise to sunset.

Because of the month long Ramadan fasting, most restaurants are closed during the day, and businesses modify their hours to better accommodate their fasting employees. For a non-Muslim in Oman, Ramadan could be seen as a difficult time because of this, but really it’s no big deal.

There are two lists below to help you better understand, navigate, and be respectful to Omani Muslims during this holy month.

Ramadan Facts

  • The holy month of Ramadan starts when the new moon is sighted. Because the Islamic Calendar is based off of the moon, the dates change annually on the Gregorian Claendar, moving about 12 days forward every year.
  • Fasting for the month is called Sawm, and is one of the five pillars of Islam.
  • Muslims break fast at the evening prayer with a meal called Iftar. In Oman dates and fruit are usually enjoyed first.
  • Iftar specials at restaurants are abundant, and buffets are most common.
  • In Oman, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours, however some restaurants will cook food for non-muslims as take-out only, and hotel restaurants will arrange private spaces for non-Muslims to remain discreet and respectful.
  • Large grocery stores remain open during daylight hours, and some also serve prepared food for non-Muslims to consume in private.
  • Despite fasting, it is not uncommon for Muslims to gain weight during this month as richer foods along with larger quantities are consumed before sleeping.
  • Most offices and ministries operate on reduced hours, ending the day’s work between 1-2pm.
  • Eid al Fitr (festival of breaking of the fast) marks the end of Ramadan. Eid al Fitr is the first day of the month of Shawwal which starts when the new moon is sighted.

Ramadan Etiquette for Non-Muslims in Oman

  • Consume your food and drink in private during daylight hours. Not only is this respectful, but it’s also the law!
  • Do not smoke in public.
  • Dress more conservatively; avoid wearing shorts.
  • Stay off the roads between 1-3pm to allow Muslims a more smooth drive home.
  • Use the greeting as-salām ‘alaykum followed by Ramadan Kareem. Ramadan Mubarak is also common especially outside of Oman.
  • If you are invited to an Iftar dinner, accept it!

Life in Oman during Ramadan is not very different and a non-Muslim can cope quite easily with a few concessions or modifications. I encourage any traveler to visit a Muslim country during Ramadan to experience the wonderful Iftar celebrations and especially the resulting Eid al Fitr.

Have you visited other Muslim counties during the holy month of Ramadan, and if so which ones? Let me know, leave me a comment below.

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  • Reply D. Michael June 6, 2016 at 1400

    I have visited Malaysia and of course Oman during Ramadan. I love all the good food available during this time.

  • Reply Lady M June 10, 2016 at 0235

    Thanks for the tips. It is really good to know how to behave appropriately during Ramadan in Oman.
    I have been to Turkey during Ramadan and the big difference is that restaurants are open as normal during daylight hours especially in tourist areas such as Taksim Square in Istanbul. I highly respect those Muslims who serve food and drink to tourists whilst fasting themselves. The evenings are always lively in Turkey with whole families out and about. Is this the case in Oman?

    • Reply D. Michael June 11, 2016 at 1445

      Yes, after iftar it get quite rowdy around town… mostly the malls though.

  • Reply Rebecca July 2, 2016 at 0431

    Is it ok to smoke at night?

    • Reply D. Michael July 4, 2016 at 0230

      Yes! After Iftar (breaking of fast) it’s all ok. Puff your fags to your heart’s content!

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  • Reply Mariano August 18, 2016 at 0048

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  • Reply Helen May 28, 2017 at 1634

    I have lived in Bahrain (3years) and Brunei (6 years) and Oman for the last 6 years. I always fast during Ramadan, even though I am non- muslim, and would encourage everyone to ‘have a go’. This is a very special time of year and a time when a deep sense of community prevails.

    • Reply D. Michael May 29, 2017 at 1117

      Agreed! Cultural respect goes two directions. Thanks for your advice.

  • Reply Peter May 28, 2017 at 1827

    Thanks for the explain. I live in Oman since august last year. The only thing I knew was fasting during Ramadan. Will dress properly which means no shorts.

    • Reply D. Michael May 29, 2017 at 1119

      Peter, cultural respect goes two directions. Yes, dress more conservatively, but if you are hiking or playing sport in the evening shorts should be fine. It’s up to you to decide.

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