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Last modified on 18th August 2023. Dubai Real Estate Blog
By Ward Mohammad
Gaining knowledge of Islamic holidays in the UAE is key if you are considering a move here or are planning a visit. It is worth doing research in advance to be aware of the local culture and tradition. Furthermore, it is helpful to stay up-to-date with the private sector holidays, to enable proper planning for short trips. Additionally, parents should understand the school's yearly schedule as the holiday dates may differ from national occasions in the UAE. Also, it is possible that many government offices, banks, immigration offices, or currency exchange offices may be closed for multiple days due to the holiday season. Here, we have provided a list of major holidays and special days in the UAE for 2024-2025, as well as a brief explanation of each, to help you stay informed.
The Islamic calendar is unlike the Gregorian or Julian calendars, which are based on the sun's cycle. Instead, this system of timekeeping is based on the lunar cycle, dividing the year into 12 lunar months of 29 or 30 days each. In the UAE, there is an "Arab cycle" which is a 30-year cycle; 19 of those years contain 354 days and the other 11 contain 355 days. This means that holidays celebrated in the UAE are 10 or 11 days earlier than those on the Gregorian calendar, which has 365/366 days.
The Committee for Crescent Observation is responsible for determining when holidays occur. Some of the holidays in the UAE are not days of rest. For example, during the holy month of Ramadan, people and authorities work on a reduced schedule.
Aside from the spiritual festivals, the UAE inhabitants observe non-religious celebrations. These three festivities are of great significance to everyone in the Emirates: Gregorian New Year on January 1, State Formation Day on December 2, and Accession to the Throne of Sheikh Zayed on August 6. As for the Islamic holy days, their dates fluctuate according to the lunar cycle. In this article, we will present all the essential dates of the official holidays for the locals and expats living in the country.
Every year on November 3rd, the UAE celebrates Flag Day. Schools, government agencies, businesses, and individuals display the national flag outside their homes and workplaces and hold ceremonies to commemorate the occasion. The anthem of the country is played during the event, which marks the inauguration of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan as President of the UAE in 2004.
Though not a public holiday, Flag Day is an important date for all UAE citizens and residents to remember. The idea of the celebration was first established by the Vice President and Prime Minister, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2013.
Established in 2015, UAE Martyrs' Day is the nation's most recent holiday, observed on December 1. This day serves to honor all Emirati citizens who sacrificed their lives in civil, military, and humanitarian service, both in the UAE and abroad. A memorial in Abu Dhabi, adjacent to the Sheikh Zayd Mosque, is inscribed with the names of all those who have passed away while serving their country. On UAE Martyrs' Day, the flags of the nation are flown at half-mast from 8:00 am to 11:00 am, and a moment of silence is held at 11:30 am. Though the number of deceased Emirati military personnel is not significant, it is nonetheless a day to remember, recognize, and respect their courage and dedication.
The UAE National Day is a major holiday throughout the country, with two days off, December 2 and 3. It commemorates the day in 1971 when the six emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, and Fujairah signed the unification treaty, led by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the United Arab Emirates; the following year, Ras Al-Khaimah joined the union. Festivities include fireworks, car rallies, dance performances, and sports competitions. People often wear the colors of the flag and adorn their homes, offices, and streets with UAE-themed decorations.
In the UAE, New Year's Day is a public holiday, and the eve of the new year is a regular working day. January 1 is the only day off to mark the start of the year, and from the 2nd, it's back to the regular schedule, unless it falls on a Friday or Saturday when it's a weekend. On New Year's Eve, stores offer discounts and promotions. However, the biggest celebration can be found in Dubai, especially in the Downtown Dubai and Palm Jumeirah areas. Here, a world-renowned firework show takes place, with recent additions such as laser shows from the Burj Khalifa. Other emirates may hold smaller celebrations, such as fireworks on Abu Dhabi's Corniche and Yas Island promenade, as well as Sharjah's Al Majaz promenade.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is a period of spiritual purification and virtuousness. Believers dedicate this time to prayer and connecting with family and friends. When the new moon appears in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the month-long celebration begins and ends with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Different countries have their own customs and traditions for the observance of Ramadan, but some universal activities include fasting from sunrise to sunset, prayer, and participation in charity to help those in need.
Travelers will find that Ramadan is not the most ideal time to visit the country. Out of respect for local customs, visitors are expected to refrain from consuming food or drinks in public areas. Many restaurants, cafes, and stores close during the day due to decreased patronage.
In 2021, the Dubai government has taken steps to make the stay of tourists more comfortable during Ramadan, such as allowing people to eat in catering establishments without the usual privacy screening. Generally, the restrictions imposed during this period do not affect visitors at hotels and resorts.
For the year 2023, Ramadan extended from March 22 to April 20. In 2024, it is estimated to occur between March 9 and April 8.
Eid al-Fitr, or the feast of breaking the fast, is a global Muslim holiday that celebrates the conclusion of the Holy Fast of Ramadan. The event was commemorated on the first day of Shawwal in 2023 (April 20-23) and 2024 (April 9-12). On this special day, many people dress up in their finest garments and prepare traditional delicacies to share with family and friends. A variety of shows, dances, and other activities take place all over the UAE. Additionally, it is customary to give to those less fortunate by donating food and money to charity. If you're looking for a festive getaway, you may want to consider visiting Dubai during Eid al-Fitr; many stores and attractions offer discounts and promotions.
On the Islamic calendar, Arafah Day is one of the holiest days. It falls on the second day of the Hajj pilgrimage and is followed by the major holiday of Eid al-Adha. Hajj participants honor this day by visiting Mount Arafat in Mecca and performing namaz at its foot. Out of respect, there are no mass festivities held on this day. In 2023, Arafah Day was celebrated on June 27 according to the Gregorian calendar while in 2024 it will be celebrated on June 15.
Eid al-Adha is an important festival celebrated by Muslims annually. It is also known as the Festival of Sacrifice and is celebrated to commemorate the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail to Allah. In 2023, Eid al-Adha was celebrated from Wednesday, June 28 to Friday, June 30, on the 10th day of the month of Zul-Hijjah.
A traditional practice on this day is to slaughter an animal such as a cow, ram, goat, or camel, as a sign of sacrifice. The meat from the animal is divided into three parts. One-third is retained by the family, one-third is given to relatives, and the remaining one-third is donated to the poor. In the United Arab Emirates, the slaughter of animals is prohibited in public places as it is in violation of health regulations. The animals are usually slaughtered and butchered in a slaughterhouse. During the holiday, many festivities are held, such as children's parties and fireworks. Muslims also visit the graves of their ancestors on this day.
The dates for the celebration of Eid Al-Adha in 2024 will be from June 16 to 18, and there will be public holidays for four days, one day of Arafah and three days of Eid al-Adha.
The Islamic New Year marks the beginning of the year as recognized by the Islamic calendar. On this day, mosques hold sermons about the Hijra, and the change of the year is not celebrated like it is in Christian countries. Instead, Muslims use this time to reflect on the deeds they have committed in the past year and to begin to fast. The Gregorian calendar date for the Islamic New Year in 2023 was July 21 and July 7 in 2024. This is a time of cleansing the mind and body from bad thoughts, quarrels, and other sins. Muslims do not consider this day a holiday, but instead a time to reflect on their actions.
In the United Arab Emirates, Mawlid is typically celebrated in a more subdued manner than in other countries. Religious services, such as meetings at mosques, Muslim congresses, and family gatherings, are often held. Many devout followers will observe a fast and spend the whole night in prayer. Liberal Muslims, however, will observe Mawlid much like a traditional birthday, where they exchange greetings and give gifts to each other. Scarlet roses, which are thought to symbolize the love for Prophet Muhammad and Allah, are often given on this day. In 2023, Mawlid is expected to take place on September 29, and in 2024, it is estimated to fall on September 15.
The holiday calendar for 2024 in the United Arab Emirates has been officially approved by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who holds the positions of Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. It should be noted that not all of the days listed as holidays are considered to be days off for public and private sector employees.
With shifting, according to the lunar calendar, dates of religious holidays, the exact numbers of which will still be clarified around the time of the holiday itself:
Given that a substantial portion of the population of the United Arab Emirates are expatriates, festivities such as St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Easter, and International Women’s Day (March 8) are widely celebrated here. Even though these days are not officially declared holidays, there are still a variety of festivities, activities, and discounts offered related to these days.
As the UAE’s most diverse emirate, Dubai is renowned for its special celebrations in the lead-up to December 25th. Everywhere you go, you will be greeted by giant Christmas trees and festive songs. Souk Madinat Jumeirah and WAFI Mall host annual Christmas fairs where visitors can find all manner of holiday decorations, food, drinks, contests, and gifts. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace houses the world’s most extravagant Christmas tree. Across the UAE’s churches, you can also find services for different denominations.
Valentine's Day is a widely celebrated occasion among citizens of the United Arab Emirates, despite it not being an official holiday. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the streets and many businesses are usually adorned with flowers and balloons. Restaurants often provide special discounts and packages for couples to enjoy a romantic dinner, with some of the finest places to celebrate Valentine's Day in Dubai being CÉ LA VI rooftop restaurant, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, and Anantara The Palm Resort.
Every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day is celebrated to recognize and appreciate the role of women globally. Women have been instrumental in the progress of political, social, economic, and cultural development around the world. In the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has taken an active role in providing women with the opportunity to hold prominent positions in the Emirate’s government and the Federal National Council. To mark this special day, women in the UAE can enjoy a range of activities such as attending art exhibitions, getting pampered with spa treatments, going out to clubs or bars, and trying out unique dishes at upscale restaurants.
In the UAE, the traditional Halloween celebration runs for a week before October 31st. This holiday has become increasingly popular and provides lots of fun for both adults and children. IMG Worlds of Adventure organizes the largest Halloween festivities, which include a carnival show. Moreover, hotels and resorts often host carnival brunches, and Palm Jumeirah Beach has DJs performing. Additionally, many people throw costume parties, for which costumes and decorations can be purchased in shopping malls in Dubai and other party stores across the country.
In the United Arab Emirates, there are numerous Islamic holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world each year according to the lunar Islamic calendar, which shifts in relation to the Gregorian calendar. The weekend days off in the UAE are Saturday and Sunday. In addition, December 2 is UAE National Day, which is celebrated as the country’s 53rd anniversary in 2024. Although these days are considered holidays, not all are considered days off. Schools, kindergartens, and municipal institutions are closed during these public holidays, while other businesses may remain open. The government of the United Arab Emirates changes the dates of these holidays annually.
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