We all know and have experienced the level of customer service in UAE when it comes to every industry.  Hospitality, Aviation etc. you name it and UAE has shown a remarkable progress from when it first opened its doors to the world. Every facility, comfort and technology is available is this paradise on earth and the growing number of residents/ expats are the living proof of it. Not to forget the tourists who line up all year round to have their dreams of luxury come true. UAE is now the place where you have everything from the world at your disposal. From one of the most luxuriously spoilt tallest building to malls that can baffle you in a glance, the level of Customer Services have risen by the minute.  While people from across the world are given the best of the best whether it is a small café or a five star hotel, the locals of UAE are now going to experience the same level but like never before.

The mystery is all about the Holy Month of Ramadan, preparations have been long in order to facilitate every local in this holy month.  From Municipality, Metro and all other official offices the timings were sent out for public knowledge well in advance to avoid any confusion. All across UAE, the authorities are working hard to make sure this Ramadan the locals get to experience a month of peace, tranquility and ease. Let’s start with the basic of the list, Food.  It does come across our knowledge that Middle Eastern countries celebrate the Holy month with comfort and affordability but to actually see it with your own eyes is a different matter.

The Food Industry

Ministry of Economy has made sure that every food item will be sold on half the price for the month of Ramadan, and regular inspections follow just to maintain the pricing for the locals. The pricing was to be maintained as the stalls across UAE were charging a much higher price,

Jassem Thani, who is the manager of complaints at the Department Of Economic Development said
“With the crisis in Syria and Lebanon there is a shortage, so now they have to go through Cyprus from Lebanon to get their produce and it’s at least 10 per cent more expensive. The prices are still much better than last year and all the items are available, I’m happy with the outcome.”

But the slight rise was not gone unnoticed by the locals, as they spend every penny they have and compare a monthly expenditure on food items. They can easily pick up the rise and to this they also have something to say, “Prices have gone up this year, one stall was selling four melons for Dh70 when it’s Dh30 next door.”  Said Ibrahim bin Karam, a local resident.

But Mr.Thani also justified the slight rise by saying, “They’re selling their produce far too cheap. Dh1 is not a profit; the ministry should think about the cost of shipping, this is absolutely wrong, the demand is also very high for Ramadan so, although we will control prices, the ministry must be reasonable. If I feel there are some abnormal prices going on or people taking advantage of Ramadan and the crisis, we won’t allow them. We’re also looking at the reasons why there is an increase in pricing and this is because of the crisis, the international market and the local cost of services has increased, too.  These people are at risk with this weather too, they lose a lot of goods through spoiling because of the heat and because they are sensitive items. They’re losing 25 per cent of their goods that they paid from their own pocket, so how will they cover their losses? They opened a business, not a charity and we have to think of that as well.”

That being said and compared to 2012, the Ministry Of Economy realizes that for an average Emirati the slight rise is a bit more than the word itself.  Dr.Hashim Saeed Al Nuaimi Director of the Consumer protection Department at the Ministry Of Economy himself has been on tours to inspect if the pricing was the same as agreed upon.

Ramadan baskets are sold at discounts varying from 30 to 40 per cent, and contain 15 to 25 commodities, as well as the open basket which is sold at 25 per cent discount and contains 3,000 different products. The Ministry of Economy has agreed with all the cooperative societies and sale outlets not to change the prices of leaf vegetables in UAE markets before the advent of Ramadan, such as parsley and coriander, and other basic leaf vegetables used by the faithful during the holy month. The ministry had agreed with the sale outlets to fix the prices of these products until the end of 2013, and that they (the sale outlets) should bear all the price differences and pledge to stock them on the shelves regularly, whatever the price changes maybe.”

After having to inspect more than 350 suppliers of various products he said

“Rumors that the rice suppliers had refrained from providing suitable quantities at the sale outlets was not true, as the ministry, through its inspection tours, (proved this). The ministry will strictly report violations and slap fines on any supplier or trader who might try to…refrain from supplying the rice to the sale outlets”.

In House Market Competition

Apart from the officials of UAE, International supply chains which have been operating in the market of UAE for a good 5 years are also working with the authorities to not increase any kind of pricing on any item. French retail giant “Carrefour” is leading the market this Ramadan by being the cheapest market for staple food and house hold items across the UAE. The chain itself has 12 branches in Dubai; it charges a staggering AED 35 less than all the other expensive markets. The cost of a basket which includes fruits, vegetables, washing powder, bread and nappies along with some imported items from Europe and Asia had a total of AED 215.35.  Which is remarkable compared to other stores in the market who charge much higher for the same items.

David Macadam, a retail analyst at Jones Lang LaSalle MENA says

Carrefour has a monopoly in the region, they are the strongest by far, and stores such as the one in Deira City Centre and Mall of the Emirates are making hundreds of millions of dirhams per year, and shifting a tremendous amount of volume. The high volume allows them to sell products more cheaply.”

The Concept of the Word “Free”

The word free has a whole new meaning in UAE during the month of Ramadan; it stands and is treated as the word itself.

Many supermarkets realize the need and believe to fast even for those who are employed and are short on cash or food. Hence these markets step up a little section of free food for only those who are unemployed. This not only increases good will but also makes the people realize that a little good deed will go a long way.

One of the most renowned mosques in Abu-Dhabi The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosqueholds Iftar meals for over 20-35 thousand people and the number just keeps on increasing. The Iftar was setup after the death of the founding father of UAE Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (God rest his soul in peace) who passed away in 2004. The meals are setup in huge tents which are places in the lower gardens of the mosque and can hold about a 1000 people at a single time. To accommodate such growing number meals are delivered by The Armed Forces Officers Club and a team of volunteers and the staff helps with the distribution and the entire setup.  Furthermore individual entities like Transportation department, Waste Management, Traffic Authorities, Health & Safety are also in cooperation with the mosque to make sure the Iftar goes smoothly.

The annual Iftar setup is seeing directly by the Management of SZGMC which consists of members from “Department of Civil Defence” “Ministry of the Interior”, “Abu Dhabi Police” “Directorate of Moral Guidance Command of the Armed Forces” “Department of Transport” “Red Crescent Authority” “Waste Management” and “Special Task Department Abu Dhabi.”

The government it seems is bent on serving the locals during this holy month and is raising the level of customer service for the locals to enjoy and experience. The locals during different interviews had only praises for the government and were humbled that they were being thought about as well.

Shahabuddin, from India, has been living in UAE for over a year now and this is first Ramadan in UAE, at the third Iftar in UAE he replied “The sight is over whelming, thousands of people sit together peacefully for Iftar and hundreds of volunteers move around to distribute the food among all”

Amir Al Bizreh, a local who helps as a volunteer indifferent mosques says, “I am happy to be one among many to serve the people of my Lord, it is a sight to behold when thousands from different races come together and eat peacefully. There is no difference; the government itself is to be praised for this arrangement for 30 days”

Dubai Police known for being one of the most toughest department in UAE is also shedding it’s hard exterior and will be stopping people to hand out free meals.

Major General Mohammed Al Minhali, director of the police operations in Abu Dhabi says, “We will distribute free Iftar meals to all road users…we will be stationed at main intersections just before sunset to greet road users and give them meals,”

According to a survey held in the first three days of Ramadan a staggering 30,000 meals were held out to the public travelling at the time of Iftar and the number is believed to increase.

The Working Class

The government also made sure not to tire out all those in the working sector and had the day cut short for all the office’s even releasing time schedules. Minister of Labor Saqr bin Ghobash Saeed Ghobash released the official circular which stated that the timings would be reduced by 2 hours everywhere.

Public Sector: All public sector departments will operate from 9am to 2pm in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi and in some places the time will be extended till 3am.

HQ & Foreign Service Centers: The normal operating hours would be from 9am to 6pm while the customer service department at the Dubai Airport will be the usual 24 hours.

Municipality Sector: The timing has been altered from 9am to 2pm while vehicle licensing and registration will be from Sat-Thurs. 8am to 3pm.

Dubai Post offices: The weekly timings are to be from 9 am to 2pm, but a few selected offices will operate till 5pm. All offices will remain closed on Fridays except for the Dubai Airport which will be operational 24 hours.

Etiquette’s For the Expats

It can be difficult to live in a Muslim country with strict laws during the month of Ramadan, especially when you are an expat. But the government of UAE also made sure to help out all those who were new to the month of Ramadan, special bill boards and classes have been arranged to help them go through this month in UAE without breaking any laws or offending anyone.

Following are the rules that the expats can follow in the month of Ramadan:

1: Drinking & Eating in public during the month of Ramadan is strictly banned and there are severe penalties for all who break the law.

2:  By all means avoid eating in front of your colleagues who are fasting.

3: Be patient and show consideration, do not get into fights with those who are fasting.

4: Dress modestly and behave modestly as well, avoid behavior that can cause offense.

5: Trying being more cooperative and social; attend a fast breaking feast “ Iftar” with the locals and get in the spirit of Ramadan. While talking to someone do say “Ramadan Kareem”

6: Do not play music in public or anywhere where it might be heard as it is banned during this month.

7: Since Ramadan Kareem is all about meeting people and sharing, try meshing with them in the local events and fests. You will get to try the local treats and the locals will appreciate it a lot.

These are some of the rules that the expats can follow and blend in the evenings with the local to feel the spirit and joy of Ramadan.

My Verdict of Ramadan in UAE

Ramadan to all Muslim’s in their respective country means a lot but many Muslims across the world want to experience this Holy Month in UAE. For UAE, I believe the month of Ramadan comes with all its meaning, it is believed to be a month where you share, become pious, respect not just others but yourself as well.  It’s a month where others take precedence over you and everything else, a month where others are taken care of and thought of.

The locals do their part but the government takes it a notch further and helps all those who are helping others every “Suhoor” & “Iftar”. The government actually understands the meaning of this holy month and makes it delivers the same message to its nationals. Food prices are dropped down, offers and sales are put up for all to benefit from. Locals spend heaps of money throughout the Holy Month to help feed others at different places and mosques, the government helps with providing food, safety and other amenities. It’s not just about food but also about obeying what the religion asks you do, prayers and meditation in reciting the Quran is also advised. Hence offices are closed by 2pm so people have ample time to rest, pray and full fill their duties as a Muslim. UAE is making sure it sends out the message it believe in, a true Islamic Country where Islamic laws are practiced and obeyed.