Here we go again - welcome to Ramadan 2016 - my 10th one here in Oman. I'm expecting someone to ring me up and congratulate me on my 10th Ramadan and offer me something fabulous, like a gold bar, or a new car :)
Here's some tips I've learned over the years:
1. Don't be an insensitive idiot. Ramadan is a long month for those fasting and people can be annoyed quicker than normal. Being ridiculously thirsty can do that to people. Obviously the usual don't eat and drink in public applies, but think a little bit further. Don't come to a meeting right after lunch (or at least don't give any idea that you've just come from having a meal). Not being an insensitive idiot is a good way of leading your life in general, but even more so during Ramadan.
2. Understand, and acknowledge, that your are a lot more likely to be involved in a car accident during Ramadan. I've long held the belief that the standard of driving here plummets during Ramadan, and now there is scientific proof to back it up. Loughborough University recently published research that dehydrated drivers make as many accidents as drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Actually stop at stop signs. Don't just assume it's safe to go just because you have the green light, and beware the lane drifters - there's a lot of them. I've been driven into 3 times during Ramadan, as an example.
3. Register on Talabat.com or something similar - lunches from Al Fair's butty bar will get tiring quickly... or you know... make your lunches (assuming you have a fridge to keep them in). Quite a few places offer food delivery during the day, it can come in pretty handy.
4. Turn your music down if driving past a mosque when the call to prayer is going. It's just good manners all year round, but even more so during Ramadan.
5. If you have a lot of Muslim neighbours, it's probably not a good time of year to have a big house party. But having said that, there are some huge - and amazing - house parties during Ramadan... get invited to one!
6. If you like a drink, you've got 3 options: 1 - drink at home or a friends house; 2 - Stay at a 5 star hotel and use the mini-bar (quite why anyone would stay at a hotel JUST to use the minibar is beyond me, but it's a thing apparently) and 3 - Leave the country - Dubai's bar's stay open during Ramadan for example. In some 5 star hotels in the country, one bar is usually technically open for guests, and they can be a bit lax at times - but don't assume one will be open, it's more of a chance happening.
7. The concept is "nothing can pass the lips" - which means no smoking, eating, chewing or drinking - or kissing (not that you should EVER do that in public here anyway). This also includes taking medicine. Having personally observed the fast once or twice, I can share that the hunger for me was never really a problem. The thirst however, now thats a totally different animal. Thirst is the real big one. Now, there is a school of thought that those who are fasting should expect those around them might not be and this is just part of the challenge - I whole-heartedly subscribe to this school of thought, but still, tip #1 applies - don't be an insensitive idiot.
8. Seriously, consider taking a vacation. It's really hot, your chances of having a car crash are a lot higher, and not a lot seems to get done here during Ramadan anyway.
9. Do not get caught being drunk in public, especially during Ramadan. Bad things can, and probably will happen to you.
10. Just because you're at the beach (in June/July you'd have to be nuts, but people go) do not assume Ramadan isn't happening there. Modesty and the food and drink thing still applies. Also - NO SMOKING! (Smokers are jokers anyway).
11. This one is for the parents. Now, kids do not have to observe Ramadan, but from personal experience in Carrefour two years ago I give you this tip: Try and let your kids have food and drink (in public) out of the immediate way of anyone observing the fast - maybe wait till you're back to the car or something. The year before last my eldest daughter (less than 2 years old at the time) was very thirsty and wanted some water while we were in Carrefour. I gave her the water bottle she likes and she had a drink - we were next to the chiller cabinets. This dude looked like he was going to kill me. Honestly, if looks could kill. This comes back to the thirst issue I shared above. Just be mindful of those around you, even though your kids are not subject to the fast, just be a little cleverer than I was.
12. The best time to do your grocery shopping is during Iftar, or at 10am. Honestly - the supermarkets are great during those times... empty! If you time it just right at Iftar, the roads will still be empty once you've done your shopping too! The caveat to this is... don't leave your house until Iftar starts... the roads, right before sunset, are statistically at their most dangerous.
13. Unless you like mass-crowds - avoid the malls during the evenings and weekends... they're always busy but during Ramadan they're crazy-busy.
That's all... do you have any tips?