The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins on Tuesday, May 15 and will end on Thursday, June 14 (these dates can vary slightly between countries and branches of Islam). During this time, more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world will mark the month, during which believers abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having marital relations from dawn until sunset.
During this period, meetings may be difficult to secure or cancelled at short notice, though in most cases, businesses catering to foreigners will remain operational during daylight hours. In Muslim-minority countries, certain Muslim-owned businesses may alter operating hours. The extent of disruption to business activity and the nature of cultural sensitivities during Ramadan vary from country to country as well as across different regions within individual countries.
Non-Muslims are also expected to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours, especially in more strictly observant countries. Travelers should restrict such activity to private spaces such as hotel rooms or areas that have been clearly designated for these purposes. Travelers in these areas should be mindful of customs and adhere to more conservative dress standards. Violating these Ramadan rules and laws can lead to arrest.
The primary related risk is that posed by road accidents, particularly as dusk approaches, when a combination of exhaustion, hunger and impatience can lead to a significant deterioration in driving standards. In addition, travelers should take enhanced precautions against petty crime; criminals may find more incentive and opportunity to operate during festive periods. Individuals should take enhanced precautions against petty crime, as criminals may find more incentives and opportunities to operate during festive periods when there is an increased exchange of cash and goods and a greater number of large gatherings.
- Be respectful of religious and cultural practices. Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum in public during daylight hours. Some countries, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, may impose fines and penalties for not respecting these practices.
- Prepare for difficulties associated with securing appointments as business hours are shortened during Ramadan. Reconfirm all meetings prior to setting out.
- Adopt extra caution while undertaking road travel during Ramadan, particularly during the evening rush hour before Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast. Ensure that you are able to communicate with your local and international support structure in the event of an accident, and be patient and respectful during all interactions with the security forces.
- Remain vigilant and minimize time spent near crowded public spaces, religious buildings, popular tourist sites, symbolic foreign interests and government and security force personnel and facilities.
- Avoid all protests and demonstrations. While most start with peaceful intentions, they can turn violent quickly. Leave the area quickly and calmly at the first sign of a crowd forming or gathering of security personnel. Do not take pictures or record any gatherings.
As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 (collect calls accepted) or UTPD at 512-471-4441.