Islam is the official religion of the UAE, and is widely practised. The Islamic holy day is Friday and there are five pillars of Islam, which all Muslims must follow: the Profession of Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, and the Pilgrimage to Makkah. Additionally, a Muslim is required to pray (facing Makkah) five times a day. The times vary according to the position of the sun, when the modern day call to prayer is transmitted through loudspeakers on mosque minarets.
The UAE Constitution provides for freedom of religion in accordance with established customs. Abu Dhabi is tolerant of other religions with people being free to practice their religious beliefs, so long as they do not interfere with Islam. Non-Muslims can get an insight into Islam through complimentary guided tours of the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - one of the world's largest. The tours run at different times during the week.
Ramadan is the holy month in which Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Holy Quran (Islam's holy book). It’s a time of fasting and Muslims abstain from all food, drink, smoking and unclean thoughts (or activities) between dawn and dusk.
At sunset, the fast is broken with the Iftar feast, the timings of which are published in all daily newspapers.
All over the city, festive Ramadan tents are filled to the brim each evening with people of all nationalities and religions enjoying traditional Arabic mezze and sweets. The dates of Ramadan change each year following the Islamic lunar calendar.
During the holy month of Ramadan, shops often change their hours by closing during the day, re-opening an hour or two after sunset, and staying open later at night. Food outlets and restaurants generally remain closed or offer takeaway services only during the day and then open up for Iftar after sunset.
Non-Muslims are respectfully required to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public places during daylight hours. Failure to do so could upset people or lead to an official complaint. During Ramadan, shops and parks usually open and close later. In addition, no live music or dancing is allowed (so nightclubs tend to close for the entire month) and cinemas limit daytime screenings.
Ramadan ends with a three-day celebration and holiday called Eid Al Fitr, which is characterised by gifts being given amongst families, friends, neighbours and charities.
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