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The holy month of Ramadan is considered the holiest and most sacred month of the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar. Muslims firmly believe that it was during this exalted month that the archangel Gabriel descended from the heavens and revealed the Message to the Prophet Muhammad.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to elevate their level of spiritual and physical submission to God by way of fasting; that is to say, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and also husband-wife intimacy from the breaking of dawn until the setting of the sun.
As we prepare to welcome the holiest of months, here are the dates, calendar and guide to spending Ramadan 2021 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ramadan dates and calendar 2021
The arrival of Ramadan has always been associated with a certain amount of mystique and contemplation. The exact date of the month’s beginning is traditionally determined by religious scholars/authorities under the cover of night as they seek to observe certain sightings related to the appearance and cycle of the moon.
This year, Ramadan is expected to be upon us starting from 12 April and will last until 12 May 2021, followed by the Islamic festivities of Eid al Fitr.
Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
The common thread that runs through all predominantly Muslim countries in Ramadan is that life generally slows down as the hours for working and schooling are reduced by two to three hours. Many opt to embrace a nocturnal lifestyle in the sense that they shift their schedule to allow them to sleep through the day and work through the night.
Unlike in places like Dubai, most supermarkets, malls, shops, restaurants, cafes and nearly all other eateries close down during the daylight hours. Hotels remain open and may still offer food to their non-fasting guests, albeit in screened and partitioned areas.
Close to sunset, numerous mosques are filled with lines of people sitting in lines facing spreads of food. As the call to prayer is heard signifying the arrival of Iftar (breaking of the fast), numerous people can be heard chanting their prayers before helping themselves to the available sustenance.
It’s also common to observe people, both local residents and visitors, handing out dates and bottles of water to passersby while shouting ‘halal‘ at busy intersections close to Iftar time. The month of Ramadan indeed encourages Muslims to further practice benevolence and charity.
Most businesses resume operations after Iftar and continue to do so until 1 or 2 in the morning. This naturally makes the Ramadan nights alive and wonderful as opposed to its slow and somber days. Friends and family gather at midnight at malls, restaurants and cafes to shop and indulge in Ramadan snacks, before retiring to their homes and prepare the pre-dawn meal.
Some rules to observe
The month of Ramadan is strictly observed in Saudi Arabia. Although non-Muslims are not expected to fast during the month, they are strictly forbidden to eat, drink and smoke publicly during the day, as it’s punishable by law. The word ‘public’ extends to not just open-air places like streets or parks, but also to offices, factories and other types of workplaces.