I can say without doubt that the biggest culture shock I had when I moved here was during the month of Ramadan. I had no idea what exactly happens during that month, since in Lebanon, there were no lists of things we can and can’t do.
The first thing I realized one day when I went to school, was that the food court actually moved to the basement. After asking around, my friends told me that they were fasting, and we will not be allowed to eat or drink anything anywhere besides the designated area in the school. A friend of mine actually got in trouble that year for chewing gum in public- it was the first day of Ramadan and she had no idea what that meant. I was happy that the school timings changed and the classes were generally less hellish!
Soon enough I got used to the facts that come along with Ramadan- do not show any skin, don’t wear any revealing clothes, don’t wear anything too tight, do NOT smoke in public (car is also considered a public area), you are not allowed to chew gum eat, or drink water. I have accepted these facts, because to be honest, if you don’t like the rules, no one is forcing you to stay here, right? We have all year to pretty much do whatever we want to do, and eat wherever we want to eat, and this is a month of respect and tolerance. I don’t really understand why people KNOWINGLY get themselves into crap. It is totally understandable if you don’t know and you don’t realize that what you are doing is wrong, but seriously, why do people feel that they have the mighty power to disagree with a rule that is only forced once a year?
The hardest part in Ramadan is actually finding a place to eat if you don’t fast. Restaurants close so you are forced to eat out at night (pizza hut and papa johns were open for takeaway last year). Every time I take away food, I feel like criminal smuggling drugs into the building for some reason! In Dubai, it felt a little different… people could take away food from most restaurants and it seemed like there were no strict dress codes either.
The funniest part though, is watching everyone stock up alcohol since they know all bars and alcohol shops will be closed for a month! Yesterday I was in the shop and they were running out of everything. People were getting out with quite a few of those famous black bags, and i think we bought everything else left in the shop...