Global Threat Analyst – MENA
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan 2019 will commence on 5th May, and will culminate with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr on 4th June.
Ramadan is the period when Muslims abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. This is a time of reflection, and during this period Muslims are encouraged to participate in charity, fasting and prayer. It is a significant event and constitutes one of the Five Pillars of Islam (almsgiving, faith, fasting, pilgrimage and worship).
During the holy month, Muslims will rise early to eat a pre-dawn meal called Suhoor. In the evening, the fast is broken with a meal known as Iftar. Nightly prayers, called Tarawih, are also held in mosques after Iftar. Iftar may take the form of large public buffets or free meals at mosques and community centres. Although traditions and practices during Ramadan may differ by region and across cultures, the core principles remain the same.
- Opening hours of businesses and government offices will be impacted, with some organisations opening for shorter hours.
- Business operations, especially those in Muslim-majority countries, will likely experience disruption, such as a reduction in working hours and delayed decision-making.
- Areas in the vicinity of mosques will likely be crowded during prayer time and Iftar. There remains a potential for traffic disruption near large mosques in urban centres.
- Large crowds are expected at various Iftar gatherings and during Eid al-Fitr when Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Etiquette in Muslim-majority countries
- Try to avoid planning work lunches, and schedule any meetings so that it will not clash with prayer times.
- Refrain from playing loud music in public places or behaving in a way that may be considered disrespectful.
- Although in some countries non-Muslims are legally not required to fast, it is advisable to refrain from consuming food and drink, or smoking, in public places.
- Local laws and customs relating to the business etiquette and behaviour may differ by region and country.
Safety and security considerations for Ramadan 2019
- As a standard security precaution, travellers should minimise time spent in unsecured, crowded areas in the immediate vicinity of government infrastructure and religious sites.
- Plan itineraries to account for the reduction in business hours during Ramadan, arrange business meetings in the morning where possible.
- Refrain from photographing worshippers during prayers.
- Locals in observant communities may be more tired and irritable than usual, and as such, travellers should be patient in interactions.
- Dress modestly and respect local cultures; foreign travellers are usually afforded some leeway in regard to conservative dress but there have been reports of attacks on foreigners in recent years due to perceived disrespect.
- Female travellers in particular should ensure their shoulders and legs are covered, and place preference on loose-fitting clothing. Women may also be asked to cover their hair with a headscarf in some locations.
- Adopting common sense precautions will largely mitigate any risks posed by opportunistic crime. Travellers should avoid carrying valuables on their person and leave them locked in a hotel safe; better still, avoid bringing them altogether. When carrying essential, high-value goods, travellers should avoid overt displays of wealth and take care not to attract unwanted attention, particularly in more remote areas located away from central thoroughfares.
- Where possible, travellers should seek to book transport through trusted local providers (hotels will often provide details). It is strongly advised that travel is avoided in the hours preceding and immediately following Iftar when traffic is most intense and the frequency of traffic collisions is highest. Ensure adequate supplies of non-perishable food and water are kept in accommodation in order to avoid unnecessary travel during peak times (around sundown).