(27 Jun 2015) LEAD IN:
Dubai is continuing to attract international visitors during the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan, despite strict rules on eating and drinking.
According to the city’s tourism and marketing authority, the emirate welcomed 13.2 million international overnight visitors in 2014.
If it weren’t for the famous skyline, this Dubai resort could be one of many luxury destinations around the world.
During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Muslims tend to stay at home meaning hotels here have lower occupancy and therefore cheaper rates.
Despite strict rules regarding eating and drinking during daylight hours, tourists still visit to take advantage of cheaper prices.
In some hotels, visitors are able to avoid certain rules, meaning food and soft drinks are served throughout the day and swimwear is permitted.
“I’m here by the beach and I even got to have a little snack,” says Tatiana Perez, a tourist from Brazil.
“I don’t go out in the streets and drink something, I respect, but here is like an international area so it’s fine I’m just having something to eat.”
Tourist Lana Zhukava, from Minsk, Belarus, says Ramadan hasn’t really affected her visit.
“If you’re in a five star hotel, no it doesn’t affect at all,” she says.
“But if you go to the shopping mall, yes it does because you have to wear more decent clothes and you cannot eat because all coffee shops, restaurants are closed.”
After sunset, many hotels and restaurants offer iftar buffets to mark the breaking of the fast.
For international visitors, they’re a good chance to experience local foods and tastes.
According to hotel manager Alexander Schneider, Ramadan is still a good time to visit the UAE.
“Not so many things are actually changing,” he says.
“You can still enjoy your dinner, you can have after sunset a wonderful glass of wine, you can go to the beach in your bikini and your swimwear and enjoy the wonderful weather and on top obviously the hotels have wonderful offerings.”
“I truly believe that Ramadan is a great season to travel to the UAE and into the Arab world because this is really the time where you meet the people and obviously the Ramadan season is also about celebrating that culture and you can really dive in and be a part of it.”
Many Muslims enjoy spending Ramadan in Dubai due to its lively nightlife, hotels and restaurants.
“Dubai’s a good place to spend Ramadan for Arabic Muslims,” says Tunisian tourist, Kais Lahiani.
“It’s got lots of restaurants which offer iftar and suhoor. During the evening in Ramadan is very special.”
Despite that, strict rules still apply to how people dress on streets or in shopping malls during daytime hours.
Most restaurants and coffee shops are closed, nobody is supposed to eat or drink in public.
Non-Muslims or adult Muslims who eat in public during the day can be fined or even jailed.
“It’s for tourists to be aware that they shouldn’t drink – eat and drink – during daylight hours, that they should dress respectively meaning for ladies from their shoulders down to their knees, and really similar for men, no public displays of affection,” says cultural expert, Amal Loring.
“However, it’s a great time to be in the UAE, to be in Dubai, to really get an insight into the religion, what the religion means in terms of not just eating and drinking, but times of charity, spiritual journey within, giving thanks for what you have.”
Tourism is big business in Dubai, official figures released by the city’s tourism and marketing authority in May this year show the emirate welcomed 13.2 million international overnight visitors in 2014.
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