Ramadan 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.
- 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.