Ramadan is already half way through and in two weeks, the country will be celebrating Eid. Many of us will be flying out of town for a break before starting Q3 and Q4 of the financial year in full force.  However, Ramadan is a special month and I was curious to find out what people were up to and what they did differently during Ramadan. I found some interesting discoveries during my interviews with residents in the UAE.

1. “I shop more..”

With the many big sales, attractive promotions and lucrative discounts splashed everywhere in the UAE, this statement does not surprise me.

We conducted a survey with respondents from mixed nationalities, age and salary groups – where close to 1/3 of those surveyed admitted that they spend more during this month and another 1/3 said they spend the same amount.

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2. “I spend more time and money online…”

Overnight traffic sees a dramatic increase during Ramadan according to Effective Measure, with Internet traffic between 2am and 5am being twice that of other months. 20% of respondents admitted spending more on online shopping sites – Travel sites and holiday packages seem to be the winner in the online shopping category over Ramadan according to Criteo.

3. “I find out my market value”

What was that again?! Incredibly interesting way of looking at how to spend your time in Ramadan.  Amanda (name changed) sends her CV to recruiters and researches potential employment opportunities.  But why now? Well as the office hours are down to 6 hours a day and most offices close by 3 pm, it’s easier for her to go out and meet potential employers. This way, Amanda finds out how much she is really worth and whether she should be taking up any new opportunities.  Very smart from my perspective.

4. “I find my old friends trying to reconnect”

Considering that the working hours are reduced many make the most of spending time with the kids.  After all, even if you wanted to stay at work, you are often limited as your colleagues, clients and suppliers are out. Also, you find many of your old friends trying to reconnect and organize Iftars and Sohoors during Ramadan. The charms of Ramadan tents for Iftar and Sohoor provides a fantastic opportunity and atmosphere to see friends and family even during the week.

While some catch-up with family and friends,  other residents feel like they can take a much needed break from the busy Dubai style weekends. There is less pressure to make plans and cram in a weekend with lunches, dinners and nights-out during Ramadan. It leaves more room for quite nights in at home.

5. “I become more charitable”

For Muslims, it is the time to give the Zakat. This money goes to those in need. Talking to non-Muslims, I found out that the spirit of the holy month also made them feel more charitable towards the ones in need from extra tips in taxis to Iftar boxes for those working during breaking of the fast.

6. “I become more fit”

There are many less late nights and many more early mornings. Many of us take the month as a time to take a break from food and drinks and become much more healthy.  Fitness and gym usage sees an increase during Ramadan among those who are not fasting.

7. “I eat so much more”

Contradictory? Yes for many of us who are fasting. But the reality is that we end up eating more due to either more time on our hands, more social gatherings around Iftars and Sohour and more lavish dishes.

8. “I watch Arabic TV series”

This was an interesting response.  As work finishes up early, even with his fitness regime, Ray manages to get home early enough to watch Arabic TV series – the one time during the year  where he gets to follow them religiously. After all, these TV-shows are big productions specifically made for Ramadan and get viewers hooked.

9. “I cook a whole lot more..”

According to Emirates 24/7 due to increase in competition between friends and family, many women seem to be under pressure in showing their cooking abilities. Women spend twice as much time cooking and preparing dishes at home during Ramadan than any other time of the year.

10. “I gain weight even while fasting”

I have heard this over and over again. Many of us who fast all day unfortunately splurge out at night with high fatty foods, carbonated drinks and deserts. We tend to eat much more during the nights that we would have ever eaten on a normal day. On top of the food, there is much less sports for those who fast as night time is all about family, food and relaxing.

Below are the results of the survey carried out by Souqalmal.com:

Did you spend more during Ramadan, or less?

Less 29.43%
More 31.42%
The same 39.15%
Grand Total 100.00%

Did your online shopping spend  increase?

No 77.81%
Yes 22.19%
Grand Total 100.00%

Online shopping increase by age group

26 to 35 36 to 45 46 and above Below 25 Grand Total
No 78.19% 81.48% 76.47% 69.77% 77.81%
Yes 21.81% 18.52% 23.53% 30.23% 22.19%
Grand Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%

Online shopping increase by nationality

Expat African Expat Arab Expat Asian Expat Westerner Other GCC National UAE National Grand Total
No 72.73% 87.23% 76.12% 82.05% 33.33% 83.33% 77.81%
Yes 27.27% 12.77% 23.88% 17.95% 66.67% 16.67% 22.19%
Grand Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%

Online shopping increase by salary level

35,001-50,000 Above 50,000 Between 10,001-20,000 Between 20,001-35,000 Between 5,000-10,000 Less than 5,000 Grand Total
No 75.00% 81.25% 82.47% 71.43% 78.32% 75.38% 77.81%
Yes 25.00% 18.75% 17.53% 28.57% 21.68% 24.62% 22.19%
Grand Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%

[Compare credit cards in the UAE and apply now | Related: Ramadan 2015: Holiday deals]

A recent survey by Yougov also helped understand spending habits of UAE residents during the holy month. According to the Yougov survey, 57 percent of all respondents said they saved money throughout the year, to spend during Ramadan and Eid. The majority said they spent more money, with nearly a quarter claiming to “spend a lot more”.

Over half said they they went shopping after Iftar and their top purchases were food and groceries, followed by clothing.