Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic world dedicated to fasting, prayer, and reflection, takes place this year from April 2 to May 2. The dates change annually as they are determined by the sighting of a new moon, and for many Muslims the start and end of Ramadan is declared the day before. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. For non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, there are still ways you can get involved and join your neighbors in the spirit of Ramadan:
1. Try Ramadan Food Staples
Although restaurants are closed during the day, and food delivery services like Jahez and Careem only operate outside of fasting hours, restaurants will fill up quickly and friends and family will gather at home after sunset for Iftar. Iftar dinners are heavy meals consisting of a main dish of beef or chicken, along with other typical Saudi dishes like sambousas, lentil soup, dates, or matazeez. If you wake up before dawn for suhur, the pre-fasting meal, you can start the day off with a cup of Arabic coffee.
After dinner, you can follow up with delicious desserts like umm ali, basbousa, or qatayef.
3. Ramadan Decorations
This year, demand for Ramadan-themed decorations and decorative fabrics have skyrocketed from last year’s Ramadan. Popular items include ornamental lanterns, colored lights, crescent moons, and textiles you can wear or use to highlight your home’s décor. Decorations can be bought from many souqs, city malls, street vendors, and stores like IKEA, SACO, or CentrePoint. Much like Christmas decorations, Ramadan decorations will help put you and your friends in the holiday spirit and is a nice way to liven up your home during the month.
Traditionally, Ramadan fasters will clean their teeth throughout the day with a miswak, a small stick with a frayed end that is broken off of the tree Salvadora persica (also known as a mustard tree). It’s used to prevent accidental swallowing of toothpaste, but also is just a common tradition during the holy month to help stave off hunger as it provides an earthy, fresh, slightly gingery taste. You can find your own miswak, or you can buy them in grocery stores, souqs, and street vendors almost anywhere.
5. Ramadan Greetings
You can say “Ramadan Mubarak” as a general greeting during the Ramadan month, which translates to “blessed Ramadan!” You can also say “Ramadan kareem,” which means “generous Ramadan.” Finally, when the month of fasting is over, you can greet people with “Eid Mubarak!” This means “blessed feast” or “blessed celebration” and is used to mark Eid al-Fitr, a joyous holiday marked with feasting and gatherings of family and friends. This year, Eid al-Fitr is expected to begin on the evening of May 2 or 3.