Here is everything you need to know about Ramadan 2022 in Saudi Arabia.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month in the Hijri calendar. It is also believed to be the month the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month, which typically lasts either 29 or 30 days.
Ramadan is also a religious period for Muslims during which they try to strengthen their faith through prayer and increased recitation of the Quran.
When does Ramadan begin?
The International Astronomy Centre expects Ramadan to begin on April 2, but this could change according to the sighting of the Moon.
Every year, a Moon-sighting committee – a group of astronomers, court officials and advisers from the country's Islamic authority – typically convenes after maghrib, or sunset, prayers on the 29th day of the Islamic month of Shaban to look for the new crescent moon. If spotted, Ramadan begins the following day.
Otherwise, Shaban will last 30 days and Ramadan will begin thereafter.
What are the rules at the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah?
Saudi Arabia has eased Covid-19 restrictions and is no longer limiting number of pilgrims or shortening prayer times at the two grand mosques unlike last year.
Last year, taraweeh prayers were reduced from 20 rakaat to 10, limiting the nightly Ramadan prayer to 30 minutes, in addition to maintaining restrictions on the number of worshippers in the holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah. This year, prayers will return to full length.
This year, pilgrims do not require permits to pray inside the two grand mosques and can easily book an Umrah slot through Eatmarna app. International pilgrims can book their Umrah slot online even before entering the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is now open to unvaccinated travellers, which includes pilgrims who are not infected with Covid-19.
Social distancing is no longer mandatory inside any mosques in the kingdom, however wearing of masks will be required for all visitors.
The practice of communal iftar tables and performing itikaaf, a spiritual practice in which Muslims spend long hours at mosques, at the grand mosques in Makkah and Madinah will not be suspended for the whole month. The charity-led iftar tables had been banned for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pilgrims can bring in "dry food" to break their fasts and are also welcome to join iftar spreads, which are hugely popular at mosques around the world and free of charge.
Only those with a valid permit for performing Umrah or prayer at the Grand Mosque – issued through the government’s Eatmarna application – will be allowed to perform Umrah. The ministry has also banned the live transmission of prayers from mosques on all types of media during Ramadan.
Last week, the government announced Ramadan plans for the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah that include the use of artificial intelligence in apps. It also said robots would be used to serve Zamzam water and sterilise the grounds of the mosques. Up to 12,000 workers will be available to help pilgrims during Ramadan.
The King Fahd Expansion, Third Saudi Expansion and all courtyards at the Grand Mosque will be open for worshippers, with no social-distancing measures in place.
Will other mosques be open?
Mosques across the kingdom will follow Covid-19 safety procedures and health protocols and will remain open over the holy month. Mosques can now host iftar spreads only if they have a permit for it.
The ministry has issued circulars to help prepare mosques for the holy month, including bans on collecting financial donations for iftar meals. Those who wish to host an iftar at mosques must submit an application to the authorities.
Saudi Arabia has announced restrictions on volume levels for loudspeakers at mosques during Ramadan. Speakers must not exceed a third of their full volume, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs said.
Officials have asked mosque staff to ensure they abide by circulars that limit the use of external loudspeakers for the first (adhan) and second (iqamah) calls to prayer.
Will restaurants be open for Ramadan? Will they still deliver?
All restaurants will be open at full capacity and will deliver during the holy month.
Supermarkets, pharmacies and businesses will remain open during the day and restaurants will open for delivery only at a later time – usually from 4pm to 2am.
Malls will be open throughout the kingdom, while malls in some cities are to remain open around the clock during Ramadan.
What happens if I accidentally eat or drink in public?
It is widely understood that eating and drinking in public places is not acceptable, though it is no longer a punishable offence. Some people might need to because of a medical condition.
In offices and workplaces, people must refrain from eating or drinking in front of their fasting colleagues. Typically, workplaces provide a cordoned-off area in which non-fasting staff can eat.
What are the working hours during Ramadan?
According to new directives from the Ministry of Human Resources, the official number of working hours for private companies will not exceed six a day, generally from 9am to 2pm. The public sector will work five hours a day, typically from 10am to 3pm.
What are school hours during Ramadan?
School and university hours will be reduced for Ramadan. International and Saudi schools will remain open during the month, up until the last week of Ramadan. They will be on holiday the following week for Eid as well. Schools will open from 9am to 3pm and each lesson will last a maximum of 35 minutes.