The holy month of Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month in
the Hejira, or Islamic
calendar. Because the Hejira calendar is 11 days shorter
than the West's Gregorian calendar, the dates on which
Ramadan falls vary according to the Gregorian calendar.
It is believed that Ramadan is the month in which the Koran was revealed to the prophet
During Ramadan, healthy Muslims fast from dawn to sunset,
but children, the disabled, travellers, and those who are
physically or mentally ill or pregnant are exempt. The fast,
which is one of the five pillars of
abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and sex during
daylight hours. Muslims aim to maintain purity of thought
and actions during Ramadan.
While non-Muslims are not required to fast while visiting or
working in Saudi Arabia or other Gulf countries, and food
can be purchased during daytime at the hospital cafeteria
and/or restaurant, non-Muslims must avoid eating,
drinking, chewing gum, smoking, etc. in public. During the fast, Muslim
staff tend to work shorter hours.
But though it may not seem so to the non-Muslim eye, Ramadan
is also a festive, family time. After the sunset prayer (Maghrib) rings out
from the minarets, and the prayer is complete, it is time to
break the fast with the Iftar meal - traditionally fresh dates and water
or tea - followed by an actual meal. The large chain hotels
in Saudi Arabia put on lavish Iftar buffets, at which
Muslims and non-Muslims alike can feast together on
delicious Arabic, Asian, meat, fish, vegetarian, and other
dishes, desserts, almond cakes, and more!
Ramadan nights bustle with activity — families socialize and
people flock to the malls and souqs, which are open extra-
late, even into the wee hours of the morning. The holiday
Eid al-Fitr (the "Feast of Fast-Breaking")
marks the end of Ramadan and the start of the new month, Shawwal, and it is
traditionally a time to give gifts to family and friends.
The shopping centers are decked out with glitter, streamers,
ornaments, and stars, and almost everything is on sale —
often 40% to 60% off.
A Happy Ramadan to everyone — Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan