The holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims across the world, fast from dawn to dusk, commences today. International SOS a travel risk company highlights some proper etiquette tips for travellers to Muslim countries and dealing with Muslims especially during this month.
Do not eat, drink or smoke in public, especially during the daylight fasting hours it is rude to have food, drink or cigarettes in public view. In some countries like Egypt and Malaysia public consumption of food and drink during daylight is considered discourteous, non-Muslim restaurants will mostly be open. However, in the middle-eastern countries, like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates public observance of the fast is mandatory by everyone and all restaurants and cafes close during daylight hours. Star hotels will offer room service and some may offer screened-off eating areas for non-Muslim visitors. Check the local laws and practices prior to your travel.
Dress modestly. It is a month of piety, modesty, and fasting. In respect, do not wear revealing clothing when visiting public areas like malls, hotels and restaurants. Even the Iftar tents in the evening. As a general rule, Muslim countries frown on clothing like shorts, miniskirts and sleeveless tops, and anything that is sheer, short, low-cut, tight-fitting or revealing.
Workplace etiquette. Due to the fast, Muslims and Muslim countries will generally observe shorter working hours. Business travellers should be mindful of this and work around them. Due to the day-long fast, peoples’ physical and mental faculties are at the peak during the mornings, and one should try scheduling business meetings involving fasting Muslims during this time. Be considerate and try to avoid meetings over lunch, and keep the prayer requirements of Muslims in mind. As a non-Muslim you may be allowed to eat and drink, but respect your fasting Muslim co-workers and do so behind closed doors and away from the view of Muslims. If your Muslim host offers refreshments during the daylight fasting hours, recognise it is done out of hospitality, and it is considered respectful to politely decline.
Food and entertainment schedules will be changed during the month. All the eating will be post sunset, so be flexible with your plans. The hour before sunset will see heavy traffic as Muslims rush home to break their fast. Similarly, restaurants will be busy preparing for the Iftar meals. Many counties curtail or close many entertainment locations, clubs, pubs, etc. during the month of Ramzan. Similarly many tourist activities may be affected. Malls and shopping and food districts will be very crowded post sunset.
Avoid public displays of affection (PDAs), listening to loud music, chewing gum or other edibles in public. While most Muslim countries ban pork and many, alcohol, do not order alcohol or pork at any restaurant during the evening period of Iftar, even if available.
May your travel be safe, fun, and profitable.