Beach time during Ramadan in Dubai

beach 1

Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar, started last June 6 and with it, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for the next 30 days. During this period of fasting and prayer, followers of Islam will abstain from eating and drinking until they break their fast each evening after the sun sets.

This is our 10th Ramadan in the UAE.

Wait, let me think about that for a while. TENTH Ramadan in the UAE. Didn’t we plan to be here for “only a couple of years”? But just like thousands of expats who came to Dubai with that in mind, we are still here and we love the holy month of Ramadan. Why?

What does Ramadan mean to non-Muslims in a Muslim country like the UAE? Most, if not all companies in the UAE have shortened working hours to all, Muslims and non-Muslim employees. At my work place, we get to work for only 6 hours instead of 8. I work from 8 am to 2 pm only, for the whole month!

Ah, how I wish it was like this for the whole year. And I wish we lived near the beach.

p and b at the beach 1

Ramadan is that time when I am so happy to be able to go home earlier than usual to be with my kids. We take afternoon naps or do things we can’t usually do because I have very limited time with them after my usual 6 pm work end (I get home around 7 pm then dinner, home work check and bedtime at 8:30 or 9 pm max).

There’s a little disadvantage of the shortened work times though, it means work load piles up quickly – so it meant I had to work on a weekend for half day last week to cope up. Because I am currently single parenting, it made me doubly guilty so to make up to them, I drove them to the beach later that day.

p and b at the beach 2

I thought it was already impossible to linger at the beach at this time of the year with summer in full swing. But during the golden hour, the beach was perfect. The weather was warm but not too hot as I thought it would be, the water was not like a hot tub. It was really just as I like it – a little warm.

sunset 1

And indeed, golden.

I wish we lived near this (it’s around 30 minutes away by car) so I could take them every day from late afternoon till sunset. It was a bit tough since I can’t drink water in public because it’s Ramadan (kids are excused). But our beach trip was so worth it. The kids loved it so much and it was relaxing for me as well. The extra hours I have after work during Ramadan is truly blissful.

On the way home, Pristine said “sorry mom, the car is full of sand now.” I told her, I don’t care as long as there are happy kids in it.

Are you working in Dubai? What do you do during your extra hours after work during Ramadan?

kids and ramadan

A little update on the kids

P and B

Small update on the kids. Ramadan, which started more than two weeks ago, has dramatically changed the way Benjamin rolls with regards to his nap time. He used to sleep at around 12 noon and wake up at 2:30 pm before he and his care taker go down to meet Pristine from the school bus.

Now that big sister is home for the school holidays, the tot just refuses to sleep. Because, duh, who wants to sleep when you have all the fun?

So by the time they finish playing and watching Harry Potter again and again (on some days it’s Alice in Wonderland – he has memorized all the characters!), Benjamin passes out in the sofa at around 5 pm and sleeps for 2 hours. When it’s our usual bed time at 9 pm, he’s so perky like he has drank a bottle of Red Bull!

The result? I’ve been sleeping late than I like lately. Around midnight and if you now how dysfunctional I am beyond 10 pm, this is big deal for me. I’ve been walking around like a zoombie in the living room in the morning in an attempt to do my daily workouts. I have skipped some but thankfully because our work time during Ramadan is only until 2 pm, I can be home earlier and do it. I hate skipping to mark and ‘x’ on my workout schedule because I am OC like that.

So, too many late nights has taken its toll on me and my daughter saw it. She told me, “mama, you can go ahead and sleep and I’ll take care of Benjamin until he runs out of batteries!”

And I did! And she did! At 1 am last night, she went into the bedroom with her little brother sleeping in her arms. I feel so, so blessed! (it’s just the three of us now because the husband is away on a biz trip)

Speaking of Pristine, her stitches, the one that resulted from a freak accident at school, has been removed and now she has this scar near her right eye. She used to be so conscious about it but then was told by my friend Sheila (who’s also close to Pristine) that she is the girl who lived! Pristine loves (is obsessed with everything) Harry Potter so that actually helped her cope up with her insecurities. Thanks, Sheila!

That said, today is my last day at work before we leave for vacation to the Maldives. I have not finished packing and have a lot of worries in my mind. I do not like myself like this. I want to be a warrior not a worrier! 


That one thing to remember on Iftar


I had a major Ramadan related faux pas last night at Iftar. You would think – 8th Ramadan in the UAE, nothing could go wrong. Culture, tradition, special events, I should’ve covered all the bases in terms of how to behave and act and know the rules during this special time in Islamic world. Last night, I was surprised with myself. WHY did I ever?

We were at a lavish Iftar setting in one of the hotels here. We arrived early, say around 7 pm. Iftar would start at around 7:15, when the sun sets and Muslims break their fast. We were seated in the corner of a very crowded restaurant and I looked at my watch: 7:10. The waiters told us we can get food now. We stood up and went to the buffet stations, filled our plates, sat back and looked at my watch again. 


We started eating. The food was really good!

I never even bothered to look at the people around. I knew they have filled their plates too and seated in their respective seats. A woman in abaya looked at me from the table beside us. I continued eating. (With our office Ramadan timing of 8 am – 2 pm and no breaks, I didn’t have lunch, just little nibbles in discreet at the kitchen pantry. In short, I was really hungry.)

My brother and I continued eating and discussing how juicy and tender the lamb ouzi was. A waiter approached us, asking if we would like to order any drinks. Then went away and came back asking how old is my daughter. He hesitated, had a crooked smile and finally said in his trembling voice:

“Erm, madam…Iftar has not started yet. You shouldn’t start eating.”


You know that moment when you wish the earth would open and swallow you whole in a split second? THAT.

It was so embarrassing. No wonder that arab lady was looking at me like she wanted to tell me something. No wonder the waiter was asking many questions – it was to distract us! So we would refrain from eating and answer him. But did we? My golly, no. I continued to munch on and answered every question he asked. I am good at multi-tasking! Fark.

The sound of the call of prayer echoed through the hall. It signaled the end of the fast that day, followed by the booming sound of the canon. It’s time to break the fast and start the eating marathon…but we were already halfway. 

So that one very important to remember during Iftar parties: WAIT for the signal. There will be and it’s a loud one. You can’t miss it.


First Suhoor experience in Dubai

Sorry this is late – I went to the Infiniti Middle East‘s Suhoor event at the Asateer tent in Atlantis, The Palm. We often hear about “Iftar” – that evening meal Muslims partake when they break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan but we don’t hear much about Suhoor. I mean, I don’t hear much about Suhoor.

Six Ramadans in Dubai and no Suhoor experience. I feel left-out!

By definition, Suhoor is the meal eaten before dawn when the fast starts again but hotels and restaurants in Dubai offer ala-carte Suhoor from as early as 9:00 pm and onwards.

If you want to experience a lavish and grand Suhoor, Asateer is the place to be. Great food, shisha, entertainment (I saw people playing board and card games) and oud players make a delightful Arabesque scene.

I get to chat with the people from Infiniti, talking about the brand. Not really into luxury cars but I had a great time listening to them talking passionately about their brand and what sets them apart from others.

Good food, good company…my first Suhoor experience was nothing short of memorable. But another notable first: I get to try shisha! A shisha is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly; the fruit-flavoured tobacco tastes smooth and smells sweet. I had strawberry flavored shisha.

Given that I’ve never smoked in my entire life, I found myself awkwardly choking with the smoke. I gave up after a few puffs!

Aside from all that luxury jazz, Suhoor is a great time to spend with family and friends in a laid back atmosphere and in a point in time where everything seems to slow down during the month of Ramadan.

Are you an expat in Dubai/UAE? Did you get to experience Suhoor? How was it?

That law of attraction moment

Ramadan is almost coming to an end and I thought – wouldn’t it be nice to go to Atlantis’ Asateer tent for Iftar? For those of you who don’t know, Asateer is a spectacular Ramadan tent that looks simply magical. It’ s like you’re transported to a different world – of beautiful Arabesque colors and decors, lavish food and entertainment.

We had a chance to go there last year because I won an Iftar dinner voucher from the Foodiva blog. However, we arrived late and wasn’t able to enjoy the food and the place because the staff were already preparing the place for Suhoor (meal before Muslims start their fast at the break of dawn).

So last night while lying down with the baby, phone in hand, I thought: I’d really like to go to Asateer again! But it is expensive and since there weren’t any contests I joined to win, I decided to just sleep. But just before putting the phone down, I checked my email around 11:30 pm.


The email started with:

My name is S** and I’m a social rep for *******  Middle East here in Dubai.  I’m emailing you to let you know how much I love your blog, Sandier Pastures, and I wanted to extend an invitation to you for Wednesday evening as our special guest.

I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for quite some time and I’m happy to say it actually helped in my decision to move to Dubai from New York City.

Because your posts are such an awesome mix of adventures both in and out of Dubai – it made me think you should be invited to the Suhoor dinner at the Asateer tent in Atlantis.


I’m a huge believer of the Law of Attraction – you know, you attract into your life whatever you think about.  Your dominant thoughts will find a way to manifest. It could only be this and only this. Otherwise, who gets lovely surprises like this at midnight??

Avoid the roads before Iftar time!

I wish I took a video of our taxi ride a few days back but I didn’t. Or I couldn’t. I was busy clutching the securely fastened seat belt and praying silently I’d get to my destination in one piece. The taxi driver, after enduring a 14 hour fast (no drinks or food) was driving like mad in a 7 lane highway overtaking cars with little allowance for safety, swerving and speeding like it was a race track.

A few minutes more and it will be Iftar – the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. The driver said, he’ll finally have food after he drops us on our destination.

IF we all survive the trip, that is!!

The local newspaper reveals: Iftar rush leads to more than 400 crashes in Dubai

Hunger, tiredness and disorientation makes drivers who fast during Ramadan make an unrealistic dash on the roads. It certainly felt like they all had a death wish! After a heart racing (pun intended) journey, we arrived safe and sound but I swear, I will never go out again on the roads either in a taxi or driving during the last few minutes before people break their fast!

Photo credit:

Ramadan 2012 entering its 2nd week

It’s been more than a week since the holy month of Ramadan started. We are all enjoying the shortened work hours – mine’s from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Work load is piling up due to the shortened hours, yes, but I love that I can go home while the sun is still up and just laze around at home wrestling with the baby.

I do not enjoy the crazy, abnormal traffic on my way home after work. There’s obviously more honking, cutting of lanes and speeding on the roads. I say if you can’t keep calm while driving on an empty stomach, then don’t fast or don’t drive. While driving may be an option for some people, it is not for taxi/bus drivers who drive for a living.

Yesterday while on my way home, I passed by the pace where those Pakistani truck drivers hang out despite the heat when suddenly, one man stood up and punched his colleague beside him. Turmoil and chaos ensued…and traffic on my lane as drivers stopped to see what is going on! Ah, must be tough to be under the sun, in this heat and hungry since they are fasting since the break of dawn!

Ramadan 2012

Today is the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. For Muslims around the world, it’s the time for fasting from sunrise to sunset – refraining from food, water, tobacco and other ‘worldly pleasures’. This is our 6th Ramadan in the UAE. We love the generally quiet and laid back atmosphere in the daytime, the shortened working hours where most of work ends at 3 or 4pm and how the city lights up and food stops come alive at dusk when the sun sets to signal the end of the fast. This goes on for 30 days.

>>> 13 Facts About Ramadan and Fasting

This year’s fast is a tough one for people living in the Northern hemisphere where the summer days are long. Here in the UAE (Dubai), fasting starts at sunrise at 4:11 am and ends when the sun set at 7:12 pm. That’s 15 hours of no eating and drinking.

If it’s your first Ramadan here, bear in mind that most of the restaurants and food courts inside the malls are closed. If you decide to shop and don’t want to go hungry (and angry later), either eat first or shorten your shopping to go home and eat. However, there are exceptions where to lunch during daytime in Ramadan. Dubai based bloggers Foodiva and Geordie Armani have compiled where to lunch in day time during Ramadan.

* Above photo taken from a nearby supermarket where an array of dates of different varieties are on sale.


Halfway through Ramadan

Half of August is done, how are you all doing? Here in Dubai (and the rest of the Islamic world), Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims is halfway over.

I love Ramadan time in Dubai because companies give even ‘rest’ times for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Work starts 30 minutes late for me at 9am and finishes early at 3pm. That means I am able to spend more time with my daughter at home especially now that it’s summer holidays and she’s there. It also means I have more time in the kitchen cooking things I really loved to but wasn’t able to and sometimes even add a short nap to my day. A nap after work – what a treat!

How is Dubai during Ramadan?
During the daytime, businesses slow down as restaurants (except those enclosed inside hotels), street cafes are closed. Food courts inside the malls only serve fast food and are only available on takeaway basis. Last year though, it was possible to eat at the Dubai Mall food court even during Ramadan. This year, they have changed their policy.

So if you are new to Dubai and here during Ramadan, plan your day ahead. Don’t get caught hungry outside like what happened to me on my first Ramadan here. Hungry, with a deliriously sweet smelling, nice, hot and juicy Burger King whopper in a brown bag that I could not even touch!

The streets are quiet except during the rush hour in the mornings that start at 8:30 am and 3:00 pm in the afternoons. If you want to avoid headache and the sight of cranky (hungry) erratic driving, best to avoid those times. I stay in the office for another 30 minutes to blog so I won’t have to deal with my car horn in the streets.

Tired of Dubai traffic? Try going out for dinner just minutes before the break of fasting (Iftar time – about 10 minutes before 7pm now) and you’ll see it’s just you and a couple of cars on the road! Most people stay at home/mosque waiting for the sunset to break their fast.

Fifteen days more of Ramadan bliss where the whole city burst into life after sunset, like the movie Spirited Away (Japanese title: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). Go out and explore it in the evening when the weather is more tolerable, sit in a cafe, people watch and simply soak in the different culture while you’re here.

Ramadan 2011, my 5th in Dubai

Photo taken at a nearby mosque, the night before Ramadan.

Today is the start of the holy month of Ramadan and we are still in Dubai. Actually, this is our 5th Ramadan! This year, Muslims will fast for the longest duration during this Ramadan, after 26 years with 14 hours and 50 minutes today.

The first day of Ramadan is today,  August 1 and the dawn (Fajr) prayer call will be at 4:26 am, while the dusk (Maghrib) prayer will start at 7:06 pm. Muslims fasting during Ramadan stop having food 10 minutes before dawn and end their fast at sunset.

New to Dubai (or any Islamic country)?

Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and worship for Muslims all over the world. For full 30 days, they* are required to abstain from food, drink, smoking and even sexual relations from sunrise to sunset.

* Pregnant women, children and those with ailments are exempted from the fast.

Ramadan is for Muslims but because the UAE is a Muslim country, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking in public. It’s not that difficult and anyway, most restaurants and food courts are closed during the day time.

Work hours are shortened. Instead of working from 8:30-6 pm, most people only need to work from 9am to 3 pm. While we enjoy the shortened work hours and the peace and quiet on the roads during mornings, it’s the opposite scene in the afternoon where everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. Driving can be manic, so be alert on the rule breakers!