17th May 2018
So how does Ramadan affect business in Abu Dhabi? Ramadan 1439 was called to start on Thursday 17th May in the UAE this year. It affects everyone living and working the UAE during the holy month, no matter what their religion. Certain regulations and etiquette should be adhered to out of respect.
Shorter Working hours during Ramadan
As per the UAE Labour Law Article 65, 'ordinary working hours shall be reduced by two hours during Ramadan'. For some reason this still causes confusion for some private companies each year. However, the law is clear in the reduction of the daily working hours.
For Ramadan 2018, the government timings are 9am - 2pm.
Private offices generally reduce their hours to 8:30am to 3:30pm or 9am-3pm.
Ramadan and the retail sector
Be sure to check the opening times of the malls. The timings vary from mall to mall. Generally the malls will stay open for a couple of extra hours at the end of the night. Some shops will close for Iftar.
Ramadan is one of the busiest times of the year for retail. Special Ramadan Offers and Sales are launched to entice shoppers. Supermarkets will stock up on sweet goods, such as Vimto, Tamarind juice, dates and apricots and groceries are often bought on a daily basis. It is also gift giving season, so Ramadan and Eid clothing are popular gifts for children, whilst hampers and trays of dates are popular corporate gifts.
Ramadan and the hospitality and F&B sectors
Traditionally, restaurants and bars would be closed during daylight hours in Ramadan. Nowadays, places serving food can apply for special permits to be open during the day. Those places serving food are easily identified as they erect drapes in the windows or around sections of food courts so customers can eat at the premises. Traditionally, alcohol was not permitted to be served until after Iftar; however, this year, for the first time in Abu Dhabi, special permits can be applied for to serve alcohol during the daytime. These permits certainly boost the tourism sector whereas in years gone by it might well have been a month when non-fasting tourists would have stayed away. Hotels and restaurants will offer nightly Iftars (the early evening meal at sunset when Muslims break their fast). These are usually fixed price buffets and usually last for approximately two hours. Later into the night and early morning, hotels and restaurants will offer Suhoor (the meal before dawn break).
Business etiquette during Ramadan
Early morning meetings are recommended to catch people when they are most alert. Meetings should be kept as short as possible.
Iftar rather than a business lunch
It is customary to invite business connections to an Iftar rather than perhaps a business lunch. This is a celebratory meal bringing people together and sharing food. For Muslims it is customary to enjoy Iftar with their families, neighbours and close friends - if you are lucky enough to get an invite to an Iftar at someone's house, accept the invitation and enjoy the cultural experience.
Dress appropriately during Ramadan
Whilst dressing modestly should always be observed, it is particularly important during Ramadan as a matter of respect. For ladies, shoulders should be covered and skirts and dresses should ideally be below the knee.
Eating and drinking in the office
If your staff usually eat and drink in the office, be considerate of Muslim colleagues and designate a room for such activity out of the sight of those fasting.
Customary greetings during Ramadan are 'Ramadan Kareem' and 'Ramadan Mubarak'.
Heavy Vehicle Ban during rush hours in Ramadan
Heavy vehicles are not allowed on Abu Dhabi roads in the peak hours between 8am-10am and 2pm-4pm.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan the ninth month in the Hijri calendar (Islamic calendar). It is considered the holiest month of the year. Nearly a quarter of the global population is Muslim and during Ramadan they will fast during daylight hours. They also abstain from bad thoughts and intentions. It is a time for charity and Muslims will give parts of their salaries to charity, volunteer in community projects and help the needy.
During my own time of living and working in the UAE, I have seen the changes in how business in conducted during Ramadan. During the last few years, where Ramadan was in the summer months business was definitely slower, the schools were on summer break and many residents left for the summer. The plus side of this was for those of us that stayed in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan, it was quieter and often meant that processes happened quicker. However, with each year that passes, I notice that Ramadan seems to have a lesser impact on business each year and apart from the reduced working hours, it really is business as usual. Therefore, if you are thinking of setting up a business in Abu Dhabi, don't be put off about starting the process during Ramadan. Business doesn't come to a halt here. You may even find it beneficial as it is a great time for networking and building connections at Iftars. You'll also be ready to hit the ground running after the Eid holiday and during the summer.
Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & CEO, Gateway Group of Companies
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