Ramadan in Dubai
The Islamic calendar is lunar, and the month of Ramadan in Dubai starts and ends with the sighting of a new moon. In UAE, a committee of religious leaders, astronomers and government officials confirm the dates of sighting of the crescent moon (Hilal) and the beginning of Ramadan. A Ramadan calendar is released annually, listing the timings for morning and evening prayers and meals.
Expected Ramadan dates for 2020: 24 April 2020 to 23 May 2020The fast pace of life in the city slows down a bit during the daytime on Ramadan- with the working hours of offices, schools and shops getting shorter than usual. Most of the malls and shopping centres open at their ordinary time, but some shops remain closed during the day and would only open after sunset, so check their timings twice before you go out for shopping during Ramadan. Ramadan in Dubai is not usually the peak tourist season due to the hot climate and slow business days, making it one of the best time to visit Dubai. You can visit the tourist attractions without the usual crowds during day time, with discounted hotel and ticket rates throughout the season, and also indulge in the local culture and authentic taste of the Emirates.
(The actual dates may vary by a day or so, depending on moon sighting)
- In Dubai, Eating, drinking, smoking and chewing gum in public, during Ramadan days, are considered offensive and can be punishable of up to one month in jail and a fine of up to AED 2000. The rule applies to everyone, irrespective of faith. Even though non-muslims are not expected to fast, they must respect the holy month and those who are fasting, by refraining from eating and drinking in public places during day time.
- Most restaurants and bars will not be open during the day, but there are some designated cafes and restaurants for tourists and those not fasting, permitting only indoor dining, in malls and discrete areas, veiled by dark sheets. The relaxed laws allow individual hotel bars to serve alcohol during the daytime, but they will be quieter and will not have any music or live performance.
- People- both men and women, are expected to dress conservatively during Ramadan in Dubai, covering shoulders to knees. While Dubai is very lenient throughout the year, it is advisable to refrain from wearing shorts, exposing and tight clothes during Ramadan, to not offend the locals. However, you can wear the clothing of your choice in your hotel rooms, private pools and beaches at hotels.
- Cannons are fired at sunset, in various locations across the city, to mark the starting of Iftar (evening meals), when you can witness the peaceful and quiet town emerging into a buzzing hub of activities. The traffic during this hour can be chaotic as people rush to homes or restaurants for the Iftar parties. If you are planning to dine out at night, it is advised to pre-book a table at the restaurant of your choice.
- Opening and closing timings of malls and other attractions change- some extend till late night. Operating times of the metro and tram services also vary, and the hours are announced in the local media.
Things to do in Dubai During Ramadan in Dubai
1. Pay a visit to the MosquesVisiting the mosques in Dubai, during Ramadan, makes sure that you have a culturally enriching experience, by giving you a visual treat and an idea of the religious significance of the festival. The grand Jumeirah Mosque, the eco-friendly Khalifa Al Tajer Mosque, Imam Hussein Mosque, Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque- are some of the essential mosques in Dubai, where you would get to learn about the religious and cultural significance of Ramadan in Dubai, with the help of tourist guides.
2. Visit the main attractions of Dubai sans crowdMost of the significant landmarks, theme parks, malls and tourist attractions in Dubai are open during the season and offer great discounts on ticket prices. The places are relatively empty during Ramadan at daytime, which are otherwise busy and crowded throughout the year. However, after sunset, Muslim families go out for Iftar and other celebrations, and places like malls and shopping centres get crowded. Traffic is also at its peak during the evenings.
3. Enjoy the IftarAlmost all hotels offer you an All-You-Can-Eat Iftar feast during Ramadan in Dubai, serving authentic Arabic dishes. The fast is usually broken after the evening prayers (Maghrib) by consuming water and dates, followed by a wholesome meal constituting multiple courses and cuisines. Many Muslim families and some restaurants host generous Iftar feasts for locals including Non-Muslims. So if you are invited for an Iftar Party, consider yourself lucky to have the fantastic opportunity of witnessing the traditions and experiencing the authentic taste of the Emirati cuisine.
Many restaurants and live cooking stations offer Iftar buffets, serving traditional delicacies starting from a price of AED 60 per person. If you are looking out for a more authentic Iftar experience, visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, in the historic Al Fahidi district, where you can enjoy the traditional Iftar in a wind tower house, seated on the carpeted floor. Or go to the auditorium at Dubai Opera, to enjoy your Iftar in a festoon lit banquet hall with classical Arabic music. Also, there are beautifully set up Ramadan tents in Dubai, where people can have their Iftar feast, smoke Shisha/Hookah, play board games and have family gatherings till late night.
4. Shopping and Entertainment during Ramadan in Dubai
- Enjoy exclusive Ramadan offers in shopping centres and malls and discounted ticket fares at fun places like the Motiongate, SkiDubai, Wild Wadi and other theme parks. There are also exclusive Ramadan and Iftar deals at restaurants and eateries.
- Visit the busy night markets that illuminate the city as soon as the sunsets. There are stalls exclusively put up for Ramadan special night shopping, as the Ramadan Night Market at Za’abeel Hall World Trade Centre Dubai. The market has over 400 shopping outlets, interactive workshops, kids area, Henna counters and more.
- Take a tour around the Ramadan RWAQ at the JBR Walk- an annual month-long event showcasing Arabian art and culture, art exhibits, retail and fusion delicacies.
- Football enthusiasts can attend the Ramadan Football tournament at the Dubai Sports City that organises a 7-a-side football championship in a fully air-conditioned FIFA approved indoor stadium.
- Take a Ramadan photography tour with the Gulf Photo Plus, a photography centre that organises tours, exhibitions and other events to provide photography education for tourists. You can sign up for the Old Dubai Iftar Walk, to attend a community Iftar and do some street snapping in the backstreets of Old Dubai.
If you are looking for a culturally enriching experience in Dubai, and would not mind the hot weather, Ramadan in Dubai is one of the best times for you to visit. You can pick up great deals on flights, hotels, tickets and even food during the festival days since it is not a peak tourist season in UAE. You can witness a whole other side of the otherwise busy city taking up a slower pace of life during the daytime, and the quiet streets springing up to life in the evenings. The only thing you need to be aware of is the scenario in Dubai during Ramadan- the significance of the holy month and certain public etiquette to follow, so that you can enjoy your holiday during the festival season, without offending the religion and their culture.