Perhaps you’ve already booked your holiday to Dubai and realised the month of Ramadan falls on when you’ll be in Dubai. Maybe you haven’t booked yet but are wondering what it’s like to visit Dubai during Ramadan. I thought I’d put together this quick guide for those who want to know more and to help them with some of the basic etiquette during this special period. If you’ve recently moved to Dubai and this is your first Ramadan here. Then this article is for you! Your quick guide to spending Ramadan in Dubai.
I actually tried to fast for the previous two years in Dubai before I became Muslim (you can read more about my previous experience here and why I decided to fast). Many expatriates used to go on holiday during Ramadan but these days many stay in Dubai. The way the country operates during Ramadan has vastly changed! It’s possible to live a pretty normal life during Ramadan but with a few small changes. As you’ll find out below!
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a special holy month for all Muslims across the world. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic year. The beginning of Ramadan is marked by the sighting of the new crescent moon and is confirmed by a committee that officially sight the moon.
During this month, Muslims not only fast during the daylight hours but also do acts of charity and try to avoid anything seen as sinful. It is a time to avoid negative behaviour like gossiping or arguing.
On top of this, Muslims provide food for the less fortunate, do good deeds and give charity. Though if you take a trip to the Ramadan fridges in the UAE, you’ll notice that many different people join in by giving food to the needy.
Okay so they don’t eat, but what about water?
This is one of the most common questions asked about Muslims when they fast. Yes not even water! Fasting isn’t just about food, it’s also about avoiding bad behaviour and bad habits. Muslims try to focus on their religion, do extra prayers, attend mosques late at night to take part in group prayer and do charitable acts for others. It is a month aimed at improving their relationship with Allah.
Who is exempted from fasting during Ramadan?
There are certain people who are exempt from fasting during the month of Ramadan. These exemptions are generally based on health grounds which include those who are sick, travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding or chronically ill that fasting would worsen their condition.
Children who haven’t yet reached puberty are also not required to fast however some may fast a small amount or try to join in with their family members.
There are also some other individuals who may not be required to fast, such as those who many not be capable of fasting
When is Ramadan in 2023?
The start of Ramadan depends on the sighting of the moon for a new Islamic month to be declared. The new moon has to be sighted by the eye, so a cloudy day can delay the start of Ramadan. Ramadan is expected to start the evening of the 22nd March 2023 and last until 21st April 2023 or 30 days in total.
What is Ramadan like in Dubai?
Gone are the days when all the restaurants used to close and all alcohol was banned from being sold during the holy month. These days, Dubai is pretty normal and you can do almost all of the things you would do normally in Dubai. Whether that’s as a tourist or living in Dubai. Though timings do change which I’ll more into below!
If you work in Dubai, working hours are reduced by two hours for Muslims and none Muslims. Recently in 2022, it has been allowed for those who work in a supervisory role or those working a technical job to continue working as normal. So it will depend on your company and position, whether you will be given reduced hours if these rules apply to your role.
The reduction of working hours helps those who are fasting ad it can be tough on the body and mind. We especially get tired! These two also give Muslims extra time to prepare food before their break their fast or have a nap before Iftar. As often during Ramadan Muslims stay up late to attend night prayers held at the Mosques.
One of the best parts of Ramadan is the iftars!
Typically restaurants do a large buffet with lots of different selections of food. This is a great month for all the foodies and often very reasonable compared with your typical hotel buffet. Some places do a set menu and you’ll be able to find a selection to suit every cuisine and budget. These will be without alcohol though! This isn’t an evening brunch!
Wait, I need to eat in the day! How do I eat during Ramadan?
Not to worry! Many restaurants in Dubai remain open but you’ll see temporary boards placed up or they may look like they’re closed due to no one eating inside! This is so eating isn’t visible for those who are fasting. Yes UAE is nice like that!
If you’re working, usually they have a designated area where you can eat, as long as the office size makes it possible of course. Some restaurants choose not to open until sunset or some offer takeaway only. It’s also common for many restaurants to stay open till the early hours of the morning.
So if you love dining late at night, Dubai is amazing during Ramadan. As many restaurants that would usually close around 11pm or 12am are open until the early hours of the morning! Late-night munchies at 3am anyone?
What rules of Ramadan in Dubai I should know?
- Do not visibly eat or drink in front of others during the day time out of respect
- Do not play loud music during the day time
- Dress modestly out of respect
- Avoid being overtly drunk in public
- Avoid public displays of affection during daylight hours
- No swearing or being offensive in general
In this month it’s best to really pay attention to the fact Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is an Islamic Muslim country. Take some time to learn more about Islam and make sure to respect the rules along with the cultures of the UAE.
It is no longer illegal to eat or drink in public, however, many choose to be respectful and not eat in front of those who are. So just be a little more careful about what you do during the daytime. Even in places like your car, it’s best to not eat where you would be visible.
(There used to be fines for eating in public during daylight hours. This included smoking in public too!)
Another factor is music, you will notice music isn’t played during the day. So make sure not to play loud music from your car or apartment.
It’s not a rule but it is better to dress modestly during this month. This means wearing clothes that cover your shoulders and skirts or shorts that go to below the knee.
It has become more relaxed in recent years when it comes to Ramadan but it’s always best to edge of the side of caution.
What do these words mean? Iftar? Maghrib?
For Ramadan you’ll most likely hear some words that maybe you haven’t heard before. So here’s what they mean:
|Iftar||Iftar is taken from the Arabic word “aftar” which means to break fast. This is because it’s the first meal Muslims eat once the sun starts to set. Many restaurants and Mosques put up huge temporary tents for people to sit and break their fast together.|
|Suhoor||his is the meal before they start their fast, pretty much like breakfast but in the early hours of the morning. Most tend to eat at home but also lots of restaurants offer suhoor after their Iftar buffet. It is typically served a la carte unlike the iftar|
|Maghrib||This is the prayer that is performed at the beginning of sunset. It’s also when the call to prayer let’s Muslims know they are able to eat again. So if someone says, “I’m can’t wait till Maghrib,” now you understand why!|
|Athan or Azan||This is the call to prayer that Mosques make. Played out over a loudspeaker from a minaret.|
|Fajr||You might not hear this one but this is the early morning first prayer before the sun rises. This is when Muslims have to start their fast.|
|Ramadan Mubarak||This is Arabic for Happy Ramadan and is a very common greeting people say to each other during Ramadan. The reply is “Ramadan Mubarak” back.|
|Ramadan Kareem||While some choose to use Ramadan Mubarak, others choose to say Ramadan Kareem. This means Blessed Ramadan in Arabic. Similar to Ramadan Mubarak you can say “Ramadan Kareem” back. You’ll see lots of adverts and companies sending this greeting.|
Will everything be closed?
Years ago, many places used to close during Ramadan so this might be why you’ve heard this. In recent years, the majority of hotels, restaurants and bars are operating as normal. Except slightly different hours. Hotels operate as normal and serve food in the day. Food courts in the malls are also open at normal times but with boards placed up like the restaurants.
In terms of business, many including government offices will close a couple of hours earlier. Restaurants who haven’t applied for a permit open just before the sunset and others operate as take out only. The hotels have beautiful Ramadan decorations, night souqs and unique iftars, so it’s still a wonderful time to experience the culture of Dubai. So if you’re more of a night owl, Ramadan is the perfect time to visit!
Ramadan Timings in Dubai
So while you now know that not everything will be closed, the timings are often altered for Dubai. Here are some of the key places where timings will be altered.
Dubai Souqs & Markets
During Ramadan it’s very common for markets to be closed during the day and only open at night. This can also include small shops in areas where large Indian or Pakistani nationals reside. As the majority are Muslim and most of the workers opening the shops are. So it makes business sense to close during the day and open till later at night instead.
Depending on the restaurant, they will open either at Fajr or operate their normal hours, it’s really a case by case basis. Arabic restaurants generally tend to be closed in the day and open the early evening until the early hours of the morning.
Where as more westerner focused restaurants in areas like Dubai Marina or Downtown Dubail will open their regular hours.
Fasting is exempted for those who are travelling according to Islamic Sharia law, so Dubai Airports and other airports are excluded from any time changes and operate as normal. You won’t see any boards or closed restaurants! Along with Muslims eating in public.
Supermarkets often open in the day and late at night, some supermarkets are already 24 hours in Dubai but you may find you local supermarket or grocery is open even later than usual!
Don’t leave just yet! Check out these other super helpful articles about Dubai!
The best and most luxurious iftars in Dubai! Go to foodie heaven during Ramadan
Guide to visiting a mosque for the first time and mosque etiquette
Why do women wear hijab? 10 reasons from Muslim women themselves
Is it illegal to drink alcohol in Dubai? The alcohol laws you should know!
I hope you find the information useful and have learnt a little bit more about Ramadan in the process. To everyone, we wish you a Ramadan Mubarak and a blessed holy month.