Malls heed Ramadan customs

Some shopping centres will curtain off eateries or allow takeaways while others will host events to highlight celebratory aspects of holy month
Guards in shopping centres across the Emirates will ask visitors to cease drinking, smoking and eating in public during Ramadan.
Guards in shopping centres across the Emirates will ask visitors to cease drinking, smoking and eating in public during Ramadan.

Abu Dhabi // Shopping malls have put security staff on alert to ensure that customers observe the rules of the holy month of Ramadan. Management from shopping centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi confirm that anyone seen eating, drinking or smoking between sunrise and sunset will be asked to stop.

Marcello Larizza, the manager of Khalidiyah Mall in Abu Dhabi, said: "It goes without saying that our security staff will approach anyone found breaking the fasting tradition of Ramadan. "In fact, they have every right to inform the police. This is a religious restriction and one that should be observed across the country with no exceptions." Mr Larizza added that all restaurants or cafes in the mall would be closed during the fasting hours.

"This is a policy laid out by the Government. I think some hotels will be open for food during the day but for us there will be nothing. Ramadan is a very important tradition." Fatima al Hamly, 28, a shopper at the mall, welcomed the promise of vigilance. "I think they should approach people who are ignorant enough not to know about Ramadan. This is an Islamic country and anyone living here should know about our traditions."

In Dubai, some malls will continue to offer a takeaway service, but in most cases the food will have to be concealed in a bag and taken off the premises. At the Burjuman and Reef malls, eating and drinking will not be allowed. Bruce von Kaufmann, the operations manager for both malls, said: "The rules are the same as we enforce every year. If we do see anyone breaking them, then our security guards will be politely asking them not to.

"Usually, our customers are well aware of the tradition. The only case I can remember was when one lady really didn't want to stop eating. In the end, I let her have lunch in my office. This was a one-off, though." Mr Kaufmann added that he followed the traditions of Ramadan. "Out of respect, I tend not to eat or drink during the day. I do sneak a cup of tea in a flask into my office in the morning, as I find it difficult to function without that, but otherwise I don't really eat until I go home in the evening. I work with a lot of Muslim people so I don't want to offend them."

Not everyone will have to observe the fast. Children under the age of puberty, women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or menstruating and the sick are exempt. However, children should still try to refrain from drinking or eating in public. At the Mall of the Emirates, food courts will be open but for takeaway purchases only. Some restaurants will continue running as usual, but will use thick black curtains to cordon off eating and drinking areas.

Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, the vice president of the Mall of the Emirates, said: "The restaurants that will open have applied for permission from the Department of Economic Development. The tradition of Ramadan is not something we take lightly. The [mall] wishes to abide by the time-honoured custom and believe by closing off certain areas we will be doing that." Laura Taylor, a Briton who works in public relations in Dubai, said: "This will be my first Ramadan in the UAE and I am a bit nervous about it as I don't want to offend anyone. I don't think I will be fasting but I want to make sure that I don't get caught eating or smoking anywhere that I shouldn't. I'm hoping my employers will make it clear what I can and can't do at work. I will also have to make sure I remember myself in the malls. I'm so used to walking around with a bottle of water but now I'll be told off by the security if I do that. I think there should be posters to remind people like me."

The Mall of the Emirates will not be putting up posters or providing any written information about Ramadan, but will instead rely on word of mouth and the media to make residents and tourists aware of the rules. Other malls will be making a festival of the tradition. Dubai's Ibn Battuta Mall's China Court will be transformed into a decorative majlis and there will be falconry displays, calligraphy demonstrations and henna tattoo artists. At sundown each day shoppers will be offered dates and laban, which are the foods traditionally eaten to break the fast.

In the evenings, many restaurants in the Emirates will be serving iftar buffets. Iftar is the name usually given to the light meal taken at sundown but these buffets will be large feasts of Arabic and international foods. Gemma Mitchell, a spokesman for Ibn Battuta, said: "It's important to remember that Ramadan is not just about fasting and self-restraint. It is a time for celebration and for friends and family to get together. We want to encourage people to embrace that part of Arabic culture as well." aseaman@thenational.ae

Published: August 10, 2008 04:00 AM

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