For most professionals, Ramadan means shorter office hours but not necessarily less work. And the long evenings at hotel iftar tents, fuelled by Turkish coffee and endless dates, provide opportunities to bond with colleagues and network with peers in a social environment. Rashed al Baloushi, the acting chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), says Ramadan allows him to connect with people he typically interacts with via email and formal correspondence, including regulators and counterparts at the Dubai bourse.
"We write endless formal letters back and forth throughout the year. Ramadan events help personalise these relationships by identifying the letters with the face," he said. "It's a time to catch up and maintain relationships externally with other members in the market." Equally important are the company events that help strengthen the team and cultivate better understanding. The ADX is arranging for employees to gather three times a week for iftar. "Throughout the year there are always disputes in organisations, and events like this break the ice between the employees and help them to understand each other," he said.
Some of the men and women at the ADX have even made plans to go on Umrah to Mecca. Ramadan is a prime season for Hussein Awada, the owner of the Lebanese Roastery, and his staff. The holy month is marked by a spike in sales of coffee and nuts. Mr Awada plans to compensate his staff for their hard work with an Eidiya, or cash gift for Eid. Mr Awada says his father started the tradition in 1978 when there were only two people working at the roastery. "Now there's fifty of us and I hope we will continue the tradition," he said.
In some industries, the difficult economic environment means less lavish affairs than in previous years. Several securities brokers, for example, said they would make do with intimate dinners and token gifts of dates and chocolates to clients this year. "In the past brokerages used to throw big banquets. Nothing will be happening this year as everyone's budgets are very tight," said Hassan el Salah, the head of institutional trading at AlRamz Securities based in Abu Dhabi.
Many individuals and companies enter the Ramadan spirit. ADMA OPCO, the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company, has partnered with the Red Crescent to serve 250 meals a day to labourers around its Corniche headquarters in Abu Dhabi. The oil and gas producer is also sponsoring 30 low-wage employees to go on Umrah this year. ADMA will also sponsor a Quran recitation competition among children of employees and talks by religious leaders in the evenings, as well as holding a Ramadan tent open to employees and their friends for evening and late night meals.
At Al Noor Hospital, doctors and nurses on call will assemble for iftar at the hospital. "The hospital has organised a daily iftar and suhoor for employees on call at the hospital. They even assigned a dedicated chef and a whole team to undertake the menu for this season," said Dr Ahmed Majed, the assistant managing director at Al Noor Hospital. Off duty, Dr Majed partakes of the myriad Ramadan-related events around Abu Dhabi.
"If I am not on call the options are endless." firstname.lastname@example.org