Taking a bold step toward economic resilience, Arab nations are actively steering away from their conventional, oil-centric economies. Guided by forward-thinking initiatives, these countries are embracing innovation and technology, charting a strategic course to redefine their future.

As a part of a broader initiative aimed at delving into the dynamic shifts across various domains, DMS has appointed Arabviews to investigate the cultural nuances and contemporary dynamics at play during the Ramadan season.

Delving into the essence of this research, which incorporates insights from 500 consumers in KSA and 300 in the UAE, the focus extends from traditional practices to modern influences. The goal is to highlight the shifting landscape of Arab behavior during this holy month, covering aspects such as home-cooked meals, dining out, spirituality, entertainment, travel, and media…


General Attitudes & Beliefs:

While consumers in both KSA and UAE share common beliefs, such as the desire to preserve cultural heritage for future generations and a consistent inclination to seek good deals before making a purchase, there are distinct nuances between the two markets.

Notably, individuals in KSA (81%) appear to be characterized by their desire to engage with and adapt to technological advancements. Conversely, UAE consumers place significant importance on supporting local products, with a substantial 80% highlighting this aspect in their purchase decisions.

Prevailing attitudes and beliefs: 

Source: ArabViews ‘Beyond Tradition: Navigating the Modern Ramadan’ Research

Spirituality and Entertainment:

A noticeable trend emerges, indicating a growing interest in spiritual and humanitarian practices during Ramadan. However, some voices suggest that practices such as prayer may be on the decline, especially among Generation Y in both markets, while local females in the UAE are also expressing the belief that less time is allocated for prayer and reflection.

  Perception of spirituality

Source: ArabViews ‘Beyond Tradition: Navigating the Modern Ramadan’ Research

Another common thread in both countries is the notable surge in entertainment during Ramadan, particularly among males and Generation Z. This shift reflects a dynamic response to changing cultural norms and preferences, as younger generations seek diverse forms of engagement and leisure during the holy month.

Iftar Time:

While family-oriented activities, such as coming together for Iftar, remain well-maintained traditions associated with Ramadan, cooking special dishes for Ramadan is also growing, particularly among females in both KSA and the UAE. The preparation of special Ramadan dishes is gaining popularity over the years, mainly attributed to the widespread exposure to diverse recipes and helpful cooking tips that circulate during this time of the year.

Remarkably, the family-centric approach persists even when choosing to dine out during Ramadan as a quarter in KSA (24%) and 35% in the UAE declare going out for Iftar. Nearly half opt for this experience once or twice a week and mainly head to fine dining restaurants. This choice reflects a desire for a refined culinary experience, underscoring the significance of elevated dining traditions during the holy month.

Going out for Iftar

Source: ArabViews ‘Beyond Tradition: Navigating the Modern Ramadan’ Research

Shopping & Travel:

Across both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the prevailing trend in Ramadan shopping reveals a reliance on a dual approach, using both online and physical stores (61% in KSA and 57% in the UAE). The majority embraces this method for their shopping needs during the holy month, with a notable gender-based distinction. Women show a distinct preference for the convenience of online shopping while men are more inclined to shop in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Shifting gears to holiday travel, both markets experienced interesting changes last year. In KSA, a significant number of Saudis opted for proximity during Eid, engaging in regional travel (33%) or forgoing vacations entirely (36%). However, in the UAE, only 19% abstained from holiday trips last year. Hotels are the primary accommodation choice, closely followed by stays with family for both KSA and UAE residents.

Looking ahead to this year's Ramadan, nearly one-third of the sample remains uncertain about travel plans, yet 25% of those considering a trip in KSA are eyeing regional destinations while 34% in the UAE are looking at international travel, with hotels remaining their preference.

Travel Plans for Ramadan 2024

Source: ArabViews ‘Beyond Tradition: Navigating the Modern Ramadan’ Research

Media Consumption:

As the holy month of Ramadan unfolds, the media landscape in both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates experiences intriguing shifts in viewership patterns.

In KSA, the dominance of television during Ramadan remains unchallenged, with peak viewership observed from 6-9 pm, marking a significant part of the day that captures the attention of the audience. However, as the night progresses, an interesting dynamic emerges. From 9 pm to 1 am, TV shares its viewership space with gaming and music apps, coinciding with the peak hours for Video on Demand (VOD).

In the UAE, the media landscape follows a different narrative. TV and Video on Demand (VOD) share the prime time during Ramadan, creating a parallel trend with KSA. Moreover, social media usage exhibits an ascending trend throughout the day, reflecting the evolving role of online platforms as a continuous source of information and interaction. Video platforms and gaming take a unique approach, being utilized for short breaks throughout the day.

Media consumption Time of Day

Source: ArabViews ‘Beyond Tradition: Navigating the Modern Ramadan’ Research

In conclusion, brands have a prime opportunity to capitalize on the nuances which appear during Ramadan by crafting culturally relevant and targeted campaigns that resonate with the diverse preferences and values of consumers during the Ramadan season across Arab nations.

The ability to adapt to these changing dynamics will be crucial for building stronger connections and fostering brand loyalty in these dynamic markets.

Moreover, in response to the surge in entertainment during Ramadan and the enduring importance of family-centric activities and traditions, brands need to diversify content and engagement strategies to align with shifting cultural norms and preferences, particularly among younger generations.

Brands will need to recognize and adapt to changes in media consumption patterns during the holy month by tailoring advertising and content strategies to align with peak viewership times on emerging platforms like Video on Demand. This will present a game-changing transition within the media landscape, underscoring the importance of an omnipresent and continuous interaction between brands and their audiences.