Routine Message for U.S. Citizens: Information for U.S. citizens during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan

U.S. Embassy Kuwait

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The beginning and end of the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, are based on actual sightings of the new moon, likely from about May 6 to June 4.  The official start and end of the month will be announced by newspaper, television, and radio.

During Ramadan, the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait will continue to offer routine services for U.S. citizens and visa applicants.  Services are by appointment through our website.  Appointments for U.S. citizen services are available between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.  Visa applicants should review instructions and schedule interviews via our visa website.  When visiting the Embassy, please bring two forms of government-issued identification with photographs, as you will need to leave one with our security guards while inside our building.

Kuwaiti government ministries and institutions will follow a reduced schedule, officially opening for business at 9:30 a.m. and closing at 2 p.m.  Some government offices and retail businesses may not provide full staffing.

Ramadan is a time of abstinence from food, drink (including water), and physical pleasure (including smoking) during daylight hours.  Expectations of conservative public behavior and dress are heightened during Ramadan.  The fast is generally held to be obligatory for Muslims, unless they are old, very young, infirm, traveling, or pregnant.  The strictures are observed between dawn and sunset (roughly 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.).

After sunset, observant Muslims say the evening prayers and gather for a meal (Iftar) to break the fast, and guests are frequently invited.  Ghabga, meaning ‘gatherings’, is a get-together usually with family, friends, and neighbors.  It takes place from the late evening until midnight or even later and includes more food.  A smaller meal, Suhour, is consumed shortly before dawn.

With meals taken only at night, sleep is limited.  Be extra alert while driving, especially in the late afternoon when many people are returning home to break their fast.

Non-Muslims are not expected to fast, but it is against Kuwaiti law for anyone to eat, drink, or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset.  Even children should be instructed not to eat or drink in public, which includes while in a vehicle on, or visible from, the street.  Eating, drinking or smoking in public are grounds for arrest.

Restaurants, including cafés and fast food shops, close for counter service during the day and reopen after sunset.  Supermarkets and cooperative markets will remain open on Ramadan schedules unique to each but usually including shorter daytime hours.  Retail non-food businesses will generally remain open for reduced daytime schedules as well.

Some hotels will keep one dining room open during the day (usually screened from public view) to provide meal and beverage service to non-Muslim guests.  Other hotels may require non-Muslims to receive their meals in their hotel rooms during fasting hours.

If you plan to travel via Kuwait International Airport, be aware that food and drink service will remain available during the day at the Dasman and Pearl Lounges, located after immigration control in the departure area.  Access to these lounges is restricted and is granted for a fee.

As noted in our Worldwide Caution, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling as terrorist attacks, political upheaval, and violence often take place without any warning.

The following are common sense measures you and your family can take to increase your personal safety and security:

  • Keep a low profile.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists/Westerners.
  • Have travel documents up to date and easily accessible.
  • Carry proper identification, including a U.S. passport or your current Kuwaiti civil identification card.
  • Monitor local media for the latest security developments.
  • Review your personal security plans.

For further information:

  • Visit the State Department’s travel website for Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Kuwait’s Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait at 00-(965) 2259-1001 or 00-(965) 2538-6562 or by fax:  00-(965) 2538-0282.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

This message may be accessed on the Embassy website, www.kw.usembassy.gov.    Please note that the Consular Section is closed for U.S. and most local holidays.  The current holiday schedule for 2019 is posted on https://kw.usembassy.gov/holiday-calendar/.