ADVICE ON HEALTHY FASTING AND TRAVEL ETIQUETTE DURING RAMADAN
Tips for a healthy and respectful Ramadan
International SOS, the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company, recommends the following Ramadan etiquette points for travellers to Muslim countries during Ramadan:
1. Do not eat, drink or smoke in public – during fasting hours in most Muslim countries, it is considered impolite to have food, drink or cigarettes in public view. This also applies to travel on public transportation or in private cars. In countries like Egypt, abstinence from food and drink in public is a matter of courtesy, but in other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and the UAE, public observance of the fast is compulsory regardless of religion. Restaurants and cafes close during daylight hours, but most hotels offer room service and screened eating areas to non-Muslim visitors. International SOS advises travellers to check local laws and customs pre-travel, to ensure a smooth trip.
2. Dress modestly – the Holy Month of Ramadan is a time of devoutness, modesty and moderation. Travellers should refrain from wearing revealing clothing out of respect to those observing Ramadan. This is particularly important when visiting malls, hotels and restaurants or Iftar tents in the evening. As a general rule, clothing that is sheer, too short, low-cut or tight-fitting should be avoided, particularly shorts, miniskirts and sleeveless tops.
3. Be mindful of workplace etiquette – business travellers to Muslim countries should respect the shorter office hours and work around them. When having business meetings with Muslims, it is best to schedule them in the morning when people are less tired and can better concentrate. It is also good to make sure that meetings do not occur over lunch, over-run or inconvenience fasting participants. While non-Muslims are permitted to eat and drink behind closed doors, they should avoid doing so in front of fasters and should instead excuse themselves to a more remote area of the office. If offered refreshments by a fasting Muslim, it is considered respectful to decline.
4. Check food and entertainment schedules – if you are travelling to a Muslim country during Ramadan, you should be prepared to be flexible with your food and entertainment plans. Avoid unnecessary travel within an hour of sunset, as traffic will be heavy and accident rates peak, and avoid making dinner reservations around that time, as most restaurants will be busy preparing/serving Iftar. In many places, live music entertainment is prohibited, dance clubs are closed, and bars are kept dry. Shopping malls are usually very crowded in the evening, and many tourist activities are put on hold throughout Ramadan.
5. Additional tips – avoid public displays of affection, listening to loud music and chewing gum in public. Do not order alcohol or pork around Iftar at a restaurant.
In addition, International SOS is providing seven key tips for staying healthy during the upcoming Holy Month of Ramadan.
Dr. Issam Badaoui, Medical Director at International SOS, said:
“Ramadan is a Holy Month of devotion, reflection and self-control for Muslims worldwide. As a medical doctor, my annual advice to those fasting is to make sure to consume a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and get sufficient rest.”
Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the Holy Month of Ramadan. This year, Ramadan falls during a hot summer in the Middle East and North Africa, and coincides with the longest hours of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.
Dr. Badaoui said:
“With Ramadan falling during the warm months of June and July this year, it is all the more important that people are careful to avoid any immediate health risks, particularly low blood sugar and dehydration. Fasters should exercise moderation in their eating and drinking habits between Iftar and Imsak, to make it easier for their bodies to adjust to both keeping and breaking the fast every day.”
International SOS’ seven tips for a healthy Ramadan are:
1. Eat moderately at Iftar – when breaking the fast, avoid sudden large intakes of sugar and fatty foods, as these can disturb metabolism and cause dizziness, headaches, fatigue or indigestion. International SOS doctors advise breaking the fast with dates, yoghurt and water, and then waiting 10 minutes before consuming a sensible portion of food, which should be rich in minerals and vitamins.
2. Make sure to eat Suhour – in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises early on the year’s longest days, prompting some people to just have a quick drink of water before the Fajr prayer. International SOS doctors advise that it is better to get up and eat before Imsak. For your Suhour, you should choose complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, barley and lentils to provide you with energy for the day of fasting ahead.
3. Get sufficient sleep - the Holy Month is a time of increased prayer and cherished gatherings of family and friends, which may alter routine bedtimes and affect quality of sleep. Fasters should aim to get eight hours of sleep in every 24 hour period, even if this is split into several separate periods of rest.
4. Adapt your exercise regime – exercise plans should be moderated to allow for the change in eating patterns, and fasters should concentrate on lighter exercises, such as brisk walking. Our doctors also recommend waiting 2-3 hours after Iftar before starting a work-out regime.
5. Managing medication and chronic illness – fasters with chronic health conditions should consult their doctors ahead of Ramadan for advice on how fasting may affect their health. As a general rule, medication usually taken at breakfast can be taken at Iftar, whilst medications usually taken at dinner can be taken at Suhour. Diabetics should consult a physician for advice on how they can continue to take Insulin and monitor blood sugar carefully around mealtimes.
6. Plan workload carefully – although in many countries work hours are reduced during Ramadan, it is advisable to plan workloads to minimise fatigue. Work that requires heavy concentration should be carried out in the early morning hours. Where possible, working fasters should work at intervals throughout the day to avoid unnecessary strain, rather than attempting one long work period.
7. Be extra cautious on the road – low blood sugar from fasting can seriously affect fasters’ capabilities and concentration behind the wheel. In many Muslim countries, traffic will be heavy in the hour before sunset, as people return home to break their fast. Traffic accidents tend to peak at this time, so avoid road travel later in the day whenever possible and exercise extra caution if travel is required. This may include choosing to travel with a passenger who can help keep the driver alert. It is always better to take regular breaks rather than driving for long periods of time whilst drowsy or otherwise impaired.
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