Things to do during Ramadan in Doha

Charity, heritage and more ways to experience the month Discuss this article

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Ramadan is a special time in the Islamic calendar and a cause for celebration and contemplation for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. The month-long religious observance is a time of enormous significance and can be enjoyed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. With restaurant opening hours changing, and much of the city experiencing a different pace of life for the duration of Ramadan, Time Out Doha has selected these activities to help you experience Ramadan and make the most of the month.

Be charitable
Charity and helping those in need is important in Islam and especially so during Ramadan. Zakat, in fact, is one of the pillars of Islam and refers to the annual giving away of a proportion of your personal wealth to the poor and needy. As such there are charity, volunteering and fundraising drives throughout Ramadan to make it even easier than ever to get involved with good causes. Qatar Charity is a non-governmental organisation which looks to raise funds for needy communities across the globe regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion. As well as being associated with UNICEF and working on healthcare, education, social care and more, it has annual Ramadan donation initiatives.
For more information, visit www.qcharity.org.

Try fasting
Perhaps the best known aspect of Ramadan is that it is a time of enhanced religious contemplation and reflection. The Holy Month is a time of worship and Muslims fast during the daylight hours. They do not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. As well as not consuming food and drink during this time, it is also expected that further self-control is displayed, such as avoiding profane language, refraining from anger, gossip and feelings of envy. For non-Muslims, even if you do not fast for the full month, you will learn from this restraint.

Dine in a tent
If you are not fasting during the Holy Month you should still experience an iftar. This is the name given for the meal at the breaking of the fast. It has become customary in Doha for hotels and restaurants to host iftar gatherings at sunset. Many will occur in specially constructed tents and majlis with traditional foods. The initial breaking of the fast will usually be a humble occasion with simple dates and water. After this, however, there is often a large spread of Middle Eastern foods and regional favourites. The understated atmosphere and Middle Eastern tinge to decorations, sometimes with traditional music discretely played, makes for a family-friendly atmosphere.

Host iftar at home
As well as visiting a paid-for iftar you can take this opportunity to host an iftar at your own home. Invite friends to come and break their fast with you, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Be sure to stock up on food and drink (it should go without saying that anybody who has been fasting since sunrise is probably hungry). Dishes such as generous helpings of mezze (hummus, tabbouleh, vine leaves and moutabal) are essential. It is common for soups, rice dishes and lamb to be served. Of course, resupplying energy to the body is important so look out for deals on sweet desserts at your local supermarket and bakery. Kunafa, with its layers of cheese and sweet syrup, is satisfying in every sense of the word.

Learn Arabic
How many times have you told yourself you are going to learn some conversational Arabic? It is a thought which pops into most expats’ minds at least a couple of times a year, but somehow you are probably still stuck on shukran, and habibi. At a time when the whole country seems to have slowed down and is recognising the Arabic heritage of Qatar, there is no better time than now to do it. International language school Berlitz has more than 500 language schools in around 70 countries and is regarded as one of the global leaders in language education.
Find out more about learning Arabic and other languages by visiting www.berlitz-qatar.com or calling 4455 0506.

Explore a heritage site
As you enjoy traditional and cultural activities this month you should delve deeper into the history of Qatar. The Al Zubarah fort and archaeological site, for example, is the only UNESCO-recognised location in the country and is a fascinating destination just 90 minutes down the road from Doha. The coastal town of Zubarah was regarded as the most important pearl diving site in the Gulf and has hundreds of years of history behind it. The traditional architecture is enjoyable at any time of year and should be particularly enjoyable during Ramadan.
Madinat Al Shamal area, approximately 37km off Al Shamal Road. For more information check out the Qatar Museum website, www.qm.org.qa.

Understand Islam
Learn more about the teachings and traditions of Islam at the Abdullah bin Zaid Al-Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre. As well as asking questions about Ramadan practices, Islam in general and the traditions of the region and religion, visitors can register for a mosque tour and gain a greater understanding about what this time of year means to Muslims. Classes and sessions include Arabic language classes, calligraphy lessons and discussions of Qatari culture with patient and inclusive staff.
Abdullah bin Zaid Al-Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre, Abdullah Bin Jassim Street, www.binzaid.gov.qa (4425 0250).

Visit the Sheikh Faisal Museum
Visit this interesting collection of artefacts drawn from across four continents and millions of years. There are more than 15,000 items on display including sections on Islamic art, classic cars, currency and Qatari heritage. Located in a traditional Qatari fort at Al Samriya Farm the museum is a fascinating structure in its own right and we recommend a visit at this time to better understand and educate yourself on the nation's history.
Sheikh Faisal Museum, Al Rayyan, www.fbqmuseum.org (4486 1444).

Find culture
Time Out Doha is a big fan of the Museum of Islamic Art any time. The architecture, the art, the location and the all-round atmosphere of cultural sophistication is a winner in our book. So to attend the waterside museum during Ramadan rates as one of Qatar’s annual can't-miss experiences. Cultural activities and exhibits as well as the pleasure of simply looking at the I.M. Pei-designed complex at sunset is a pleasure in itself. Don’t stop at just one institution, however. Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is another place which shines at this time of year. Shuttle buses move between the two artistic locations, are free and are your route to a satisfying culture fix.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Corniche, www.mia.org.qa (4422 4444). Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Education City, www.mathaf.org.qa (4402 8855).

Learn a new skill
Slowing down doesn’t mean giving up and this month is an excellent time to learn new skills in Doha. VCUQatar, or to give it the full title Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, is the Doha campus of a prestigious American university. With a particular focus on the arts, VCUQatar was the first campus in the learned Education City district, but courses are not limited to full-time students. Enhance your understanding of the arts, set yourself on a new career path or simply indulge a long-forgotten hobby with the regularly updated prospectus of courses. Illustration, interior design, fashion, calligraphy, silk printing, creative writing and even an introduction to hat making are all taught.
Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Al Luqta Street, Education City, www.qatar.vcu.edu (4402 0555).

Visit a Doha gallery
We all know the Museum of Islamic Art and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art are home to stunning art collections, but there is a thriving scene beyond these highlights. Venues such as Al Riwaq, Katara Art Centre, Al Markhiya Gallery and the Anima Gallery regularly host thought-provoking exhibitions.
Visit www.timeoutdoha.com for more gallery listings and up-to-date exhibitions.

Appreciate film
Ramadan tends to mark a bit of a blockbuster lull in Doha. Multiplexes usually pause the barrage of big special effect movies on their screens and cinemas can be a little quieter and random with what they show. There is no better time, then, to make the effort to visit the Doha Film Institute instead. The organisation provides training, funding and a platform for the region’s filmmakers and storytellers, but also has screenings of films as well. The curated films can come from all parts of the world and include shorts and documentaries, as well as feature-length productions. It is well worth challenging yourself to see what is on and broaden your appreciation of film.
Doha Film Institute, Katara Cultural Village, www.dohafilminstitute.com (4420 0505).

Buy a car
We’re being serious. It has become an annual fact that car dealers offer great deals on new automobiles during Ramadan. Promotions range from zero percent financing deals or raffles to accessory upgrades on new cars as dealers look to attract customers in what could otherwise be a slow period. So notable has the trend become that Time Out has spoken to many would-be buyers who delay making a purchase for a couple of months just to discover the eventual deals that are offered. A drive down Salwa Road should show you the best deals with many dealers advertising their promotions at roadside showrooms. Also keep an eye on websites for the latest offers and finance deals.
Start looking at www.nissanqatar.com, www.bmw-qatar.com, www.toyotaqatar.com and www.almanamotors.com/qa for Ford.

Follow football
With Ramadan expected to run from around June 6 until July 7 there will be a close overlap with the UEFA Euro 2016 football championship which plays between June 10 and July 10. Kick off times for matches will be 4pm, 7pm and 10pm and many will be ideal for some post-iftar viewing.

Explore the souqs
A traditional shopping experience in the Doha souqs is practically a cultural activity in itself. Souq Waqif is Doha’s most famous and is a night out in its own right. Built on a traditional Bedouin marketplace, it has had a twenty-first century makeover to give it a tourist-pleasing sheen, but it is a one-stop shop for all souvenir needs. Spices, fabrics, souvenirs, perfumes and much more can be found in its many stores.
Just off the Corniche, adjacent to Grand Hamad Street, Ali Bin Abdulla Street, and Al Souq Street.

Go scuba diving
There are two types of people in the world: Scuba divers and people who should be scuba divers. Whichever group you are in, we recommend discovering a peaceful underwater world off the coast of Qatar in the strongest possible terms. Get PADI-qualified with a local diving company and you can experience alien life right here in the city.
Poseidon Dive Centre, The Ritz-Carlton Doha, West Bay Lagoon, www.pdcqatar.com (6608 4040).

Unwind at the spa
While fasting, it is important to take good care of your body. Dietary changes don’t just effect how hungry you feel but also energy levels, skin and general wellbeing. Eating well after iftar and correctly hydrating the body are important, and the overall health of your body should always be kept in mind. Certain spas in Doha offer specific treatments designed to keep your body well and your skin and hair looking healthy.

Watch an IMAX movie
A trip to the flicks is one of Time Out's favourite pastimes and even though the release schedule can be a bit hit-and-miss during Ramadan we subscribe to the theory that anything seems better if viewed on the IMAX screen. If it is big and in 3D then it’s worth giving up a few hours to enjoy the spectacle. Gamers will love upcoming fantasy film Warcraft, but anyone will be able to appreciate the epic special effects.
Cineco Imax, Villaggio Mall, www.cinecomovies.com (4413 5222).

Read a book
Embrace the change of Doha lifestyle by doing that one thing you've been hoping to get the chance to do for months – curl up with a good book and catch up on some reading. Is there a shelf full of paperbacks unread because of your long weekends and nights out? The Man Booker International Prize shortlist was announced last month, so there are at least six critically-acclaimed new novels awaiting your attention.
See the recently released shortlist at www.themanbookerprize.com.

Take a dhow trip
There is something almost regal and enduringly satisfying about cruising Gulf waters on the deck of a traditional dhow. These wooden vessels have sailed the waters for generations and served a practical use, bringing supplies and trade into the country. Now, they’re more likely to transport tourists across the Corniche but that is not to say you can’t get a feel for the heritage from on board.
www.qatar-ventures.com (4016 4750).

Get out of Doha
Working hours tend to be less during Ramadan and there is an understandably sleepy feel to many offices in the daytime. Especially now that Ramadan falls during the hottest time of year. Why not take this opportunity to have a short holiday and get out of town for a few days? When combined with the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan you could get as much as a week off without missing very much business in the office.
Hundreds of holiday packages, deals and inspired ideas can be found at www.qatarairwaysholidays.com.

Get henna-ed
One for the ladies this, but if you’ve ever fancied the thought of your body as a canvas then a temporary henna design could be the art you are looking for. An ancient practice in India and the Middle East, the trend has recently spread as far as the fingertips and toes of Hollywood celebrities hoping to work a little Eastern mystique into their look. Standard tattooing is forbidden under Islamic law because it permanently alters the body. However, henna is not inserted under the skin, and does not harm or alter the body, so the technique is permitted among Muslims.
Nara Salon, Waab Al Abareq Street, www.narasalon.com (4447 8008).

Inspire at Aspire Zone
Regular Time Out readers will know we like a good feed, but don't think we're as greedy and lazy as we sometimes give the impression. Okay, we probably are, but we also love to get our sport on and may well be the biggest fans of Aspire Zone in all of Qatar. This incredible sporting facility has frequent beach
volleyball, football, basketball, athletics, go-karting, ice skating and a massive selection of other sporting challenges.
Aspire Zone, Sports City, Al Azizyah, www.aspirezone.qa (4413 8188).

Boost your photography skills
One day you will forget the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, tastes and experiences of your life in Doha. While memories change and fade, a photograph will stay constant. While you may consider yourself a proficient “instagramogropher” you could probably do with sharpening your skills and not being so reliant on filters. There are various training courses and workshops held around the year for amateurs and professionals alike. Keep an eye on the course schedule at Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Centre to learn some advanced tricks of the trade.
Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Centre, Ahmed bin Ali Street, www.training.aljazeera.net (4489 7666).

Join a club
It turns out when you are not eating all day and out all night you are much more interesting than you thought. This is the best possible month to make new friends and expand your range of interests. Why not indulge your hobby and meet like-minded people? Whether it’s sailing, gaming or quilting, you’ll certainly find a club to suit your interests in Doha.

Give up a bad habit
The most obvious thing to ditch would be something food related. Anybody fasting will stop snacking throughout the day, so that is a habit instantly cured. But this is an excellent opportunity to monitor the healthiness of what you’re eating as well. The strain put on your usual eating habits means that when you do have a bite it really should be carefully considered and with some thought to the long-term effects it has on your body. You don’t need to limit your self-improvement to just food though. If you think you have bad posture, smoke or just watch too much TV, this time of reflection is an ideal opportunity to kick the habits you least like about yourself.

Try out a new indoor fitness class
Qualified instructor Caitalin and her husband, former World Champion Faisal Zakaria Diamond Flyer, spent eight years in Thailand, the home of Muay Thai, learning all about the martial art (though he’s also a blackbelt in Shotokan, Kyokushin, TaekwonDo and Judo, to name a few). Muay Thai is an incredible full-body work out that’s fast-paced and fun, and every session is different (Diamond Fitness and Fight Doha on Facebook, 5509 1985). A less energetic option is Tai Chi. Tai Chi Qatar (www.taichiqatar.com, 3392 7384) offers classes in Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung. Almost like a hybrid of Chinese martial arts and yoga, there is emphasis on meditation as well as flexibility and self-defence.

Sign up for yoga
Yoga is a great supplement to any workout plan to help with toning, flexibility and core strength, but it has just as many mental benefits. It's a great way to relax, breathe, meditate and take a break from the fast pace of everyday life. Yama Yoga Studios in West Bay and Al Waab offers a number of relaxing classes that are perfect for this. Yin Yoga is a soothing and meditative, candle-lit session with poses held for longer than usual, and the studio also offers breathing classes which also focus on meditating and reflection.
www.yamayogastudios.com.

Explore some lesser-known malls
Villaggio, City Centre, Lagoona… Doha has no shortage of big, flashy malls, but while the weather is stifling, there’s no reason not to branch out. Al Sadd’s Royal Plaza Mall (www.royalplazadoha.com) has everything from high-end evening gown boutiques and a Cartier store, to affordable fashion and a Pro Hobbies, where you can buy all manner of remote controlled cars, helicopters, drones and more. The Mall (www.themalldoha.com) on D Ring Road is pretty limited fashion-wise, but there are some boutiques there that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Doha and a few unique home stores.

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

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