Monday, 5 August 2013


This is my blog. A first attempt. I'm a Canadian but my intent is to post stories from my current overseas work address - that's the UAE...

It’s Ramadan. To a non-Muslim like me, it feels a bit like Lent, Christmas, and the Calgary Stampede, with a whiff of 1920’s US prohibition…

The Holy Month of Ramadan lasts for 30 days and all Muslims do their best to deny themselves and to conduct charitable acts. This means no reading, except for the Qur’an: coincidentally, the Quran has 30 chapters and good Muslims are encouraged to read one chapter every day of the month. There’s also no listening to music: one friend told me: “Actually, we’re not really supposed to listen to music at any time, but during Ramadan we try to be good and follow the rules.”

As the aircraft landed in Abu Dhabi, just after Ramadan had begun, we were reminded that ‘public eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours is strictly forbidden’. When I’d left a week earlier, an Arab friend had remarked: “It’s best not to be here at the beginning of the month – when everyone first stops smoking, drinking coffee or sleeping properly, they drive as if they are under the influence…”

Living close to the equator, daylight hours are mercifully short (5:45am to 7:15pm at their longest). And they need to be. Iftar (breaking fast) is taken soon after 7:15pm prayer time; then after the hour-long 8:45pm prayer time many go straight to Suhoor meals or events lasting until well after midnight. This is the second meal and the one taken before fasting again and generally finishes before the first prayer time of the day around 4:15am. Many don’t go out but take Suhoor at home between 1am and 2am, only sleeping after the first prayer – sleeping all day if they are able... An Emirati tradition is to hold a Majlis (sitting place) at their house, every evening during Ramadan, inviting guests, friends and family for a meal or snacks and coffee.

LuLu Supermarket ad in Mushrif Mall
It's also a time of celebration, with everyone wishing each other Ramadan Kareem (Ramadan is generous; a la Merry Xmas;) or Ramadan Mubarak (Congratulations, it’s Ramadan). The streets and malls are decked out with lights, crescents, balloons and all of the stores offer new season specials. Arabic TV is filled with new shows, mainly soaps and game shows offering large prizes. Many places such as the Grand Mosque host a free daily Iftar and businesses host Suhoors in huge marquees set up at the major hotels. Our company-sponsored Suhoor was lavishly held at the Royal Meridien in a large marquee, set over the hotel pool, featuring a live band and five separate buffets. Sad old man that I am, I went to bed instead…

I went midday shopping today at our closest British supermarket. I fancied a cappuccino but of course the cafĂ© opposite was closed up and in darkness… Until I spied a small sign taped to the door that read: ‘We Are Open’. I pulled the door toward me to reveal tables crammed with  expat (Western) families eating pizza and ice cream, drinking tea and juice. So, in I went. I enjoyed my coffee, but it sure felt illegal! Hotel restaurants operate in blackout too, so no forbidden behaviour is on display.

Ramadan Specials at the Mall
I’m fasting for Ramadan. No seriously… The cafeteria at work is closed; all the coffee machines have been removed, and the water coolers have run dry. But, we do have an 'infidels’ corner where we can go make coffee and keep sandwiches if we want. I’m still going for coffee but I’m not eating during the day – and I don’t get hungry… maybe I’ll lose some weight, at last! At least I don’t smoke – those 'infidels' have to go up on the roof; +45°C and naked sun seems too heavy a price.

Ramadan ends with Eid Al-Fitr, the Feast of Breaking the Fast. I can’t wait…

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi


  1. It's good to hear from you and I enjoyed your blog. And I learned more about Ramadan than I'd known before!

  2. Glad to see you are recording your adventures while in UAE Bob.
    Were you really shopping at La Senza during Ramadan?

    1. Not really. And the three shop assistants came out when they saw me with a camera (had me pegged as a perv, I guess). What I wanted was a picture of a store that's recognizable in the West - and with an obvious Ramadan poster. La Senza was the icing on the cake because it's (seemingly) inappropriate for those that align UAE with Saudi.

      But, Emiratis buy new clothes at the end of Ramadan, so it's not that far out... Hey, this is turning into a blog entry!!

  3. Fond memories of Bobs Australian Blog. I can't wait for more!

  4. Bob,

    Very good - best wishes for the future.


  5. Great post, Bob! I look forward to reading about Eid Al-Fitr.

  6. Writings by Bob - always enjoyed them since back in the olden, golden CDC/CSC days.

  7. Good to hear from you, Bob. You are a great writer!

    Surprised La Senza is allowed to display half naked mannequin when all women are supposed to be 95% covered up. I guessed a litte bonus for those western expat/perv ;-)

  8. Thanks Bob and great to hear from you (and saw other ex-colleagues like Jacqueline, Ilice ... :-)


  9. Thanks for the blog Bob, I'll be reading.
    If you're interested read:
    Ciao, George Gundesen

    1. I checked it out. Looks interesting - lots of great pics. Best. Bob

  10. You know more about Ramadan than I do! lol I love hearing your stories Bob. Keep 'em coming! :)