When we told our friends that we were visiting Abu Dhabi during Ramadan a lot of people told us not to go and that it was a terrible idea. I am sooo glad that we didn’t listen to anyone and visited during such a spiritual time.
Incase you didn’t know; Ramadan is a sacred month for the Islamic culture. It is based on the lunar calendar and during this month Muslims fast during the day. This means no eating, smoking or drinking during daylight. Once the sun goes down they break their fast and eat (usually) traditional arabic food.
This is why some people thought it would be a terrible idea to visit Abu Dhabi during Ramadan – even if you aren’t fasting yourself, you are also not allowed to eat or drink in public places. This does seem a bit frightening to hear, espeically in a country that has 36 – 38 degrees heat in May.
When we arrived at the airport we bought a couple of bottles of water. We were unsure if we were allowed to drink them in the (private) bus so we hastily took a few sips, making sure no one saw us! I also brought a few snacks along in my suitcase, just incase we got hungry during the day and couldn’t eat anywhere. I am happy to say I never needed the snacks.
We picked a 5 and a half star hotel and had half board (breakfast and dinner) included. Usually in hotels you can still eat and drink during daylight, although when I’m in a hot country I don’t usually eat lunch anyway. We wanted a lovely hotel to relax in for a week and to occasionally go out and see a few cultural sights. The fact that it was Ramadan didn’t bother me one bit. I found it so interesting learning about this culture first hand and it was a beautiful experience swimming in the sea whilst hearing the traditional prayer songs from afar.
Our hotel had a private beach that served non alcoholic and alcoholic drinks throughout the whole day. The bartender kindly explained to us that inside the beach club there is “no Ramadan” and we were allowed to eat and drink as much as we wanted to. On the third floor of the hotel there was a swimming pool that was overlooked by a few offices, because of this we weren’t allowed to drink or eat there. I didn’t mind at all and there was another pool by the beach where food and drink was allowed anyway.
It was very interesting to see that when we went to the mall or even to the mosque there were actually a couple of cafes open, they were covered in black curtains but had a sign outside that said “we are open!”. I wasn’t expecting that at all, it was also a bit surreal seeing everyone shopping for food in a supermarket – I assumed they would be closed!
I think as we were so open minded visiting in Ramadan we were not shocked or dissappointed at all, in fact it was completely the opposite. We got a great deal on our hotel, everywhere was very quiet and we got to eat arabic food everyday!! I read a review about our hotel that we should avoid during Ramadan as they only serve arabic food. I think food plays such an important role when visiting a new country and tasting the food is also such a cultural experience. I love eating the traditional cuisine and found it lovely that everyday was arabic food. Our hotel even offered to make other food if we weren’t happy with what was offered in the buffet, it was nice to have the option but we stuck to arabic food.
Visiting in Ramadan was such a great experience that we have already looked at flights to go back again next year! It was so beautiful hearing the prayers being sung whilst walking around the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and we never felt restricted because of Ramadan.
Perhaps it would be different if you are out travelling around everyday but as we were mostly in our hotel and then occasionally got a taxi to visit other places close by we had absolutely no problem. The only time we had to “hide” ourselves was at the airport before we went through the security. We drunk the rest of our water in the toilets. Once you are past security you can eat and drink freely, all cafes and restaurants are also open.
If you are thinking of going then I would definitely reccommend it – cheaper flights, less tourists and May has the perfect temperature before it gets too hot. Research your hotel (a private beach is a big plus), stay open minded and do not get annoyed if you aren’t allowed to drink or eat somewhere – you are after all in their country and should respect their culture.
Have any questions about Ramadan or Abu Dhabi? Let me know in the comments below!