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Five things you need to know about Ramadan in Dubai

  • Travel 101
  • By Ashleigh Simmons
  • Published 21 June 2018
  • Published 21 June 2018

Ramadan is the holy Islamic period of fasting from sunrise to sunset that’s observed all over the world and contrary to common misconceptions, it’s a great time to visit Dubai. The sacred experience of reflection, worship and self-improvement means that the city is quieter than usual and the lack of crowds mean that your holiday is more relaxed but equally as exciting. Don’t forget, the entire UAE operates under Sharia Law and there are certain dos and don’ts for both Muslims and non-Muslims in the city so we’ve got you covered with five things you need to know about Ramadan in Dubai that will ensure your holiday goes off without a hitch. 

Live by the golden rule that understanding is a sign of respect

Learn Key Words and Phrases

When it comes to different cultures and customs, always live by the golden rule that understanding is a sign of respect. Learning key words and relevant Ramadan terminology will impress locals, showing them an eagerness to be educated while you’re on holiday. Don’t know where to begin? Never fear – we’ve got you hooked up with a glossary that’ll have you chatting away with new friends in no time. 

Iftar: It’s direct translation is “to break fast” and it’s the first meal after sunset. 

Ramadan Mubarak: Meaning “congratulations, it’s Ramadan”; it’s a pleasant phrase that shows your respect for the fasting process.
Suhoor: The pre-dawn meal before the fast begins for the day. It’s usually served á la carte in restaurants. 

Sawm: The word used for fasting and one of the five pillars of Islam. 

Salah: Translates to “prayer”, another one of the five pillars of Islam. Five prayer times are observed throughout the day, the first at dawn, then at noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and at night. 

Public Decorum and Behaviour

Like anywhere in the world, tourists should always be on their best behaviour in order to respect the country’s customs and regulations. This is extremely important in Dubai and even more imperative during Ramadan. The city already has guidelines in place for appropriate attire that require both men and women to dress modestly with knees and shoulders covered at all times. Also, due to Ramadan being a contemplative time, disturbances should be kept to a minimum. For example, loud music shouldn’t be played in public places and headphones should be used where necessary – again, maintain a low volume especially if you’re on the Metro or other transport. Other don’ts during Ramadan include no swearing, smoking, dancing or singing in public. 

Basic respect for those who are partaking in Ramadan involves not eating, drinking or chewing gum in public during daylight hours which covers streets, cars and offices. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget – the hot Middle Eastern weather will have you reaching for bottled water but all food and beverage consumption during daylight hours must be done indoors and out of sight. Breaking these rules can attract a fine or a reprimand from police so stick to the status quo to be on the safe side. Oh, and try to avoid the beach when Ramadan falls in the summer months as the highs of 40 degrees can make it unsafe to sit in the sun for long periods of time without hydration. 

These regulations don’t mean that non-Muslims must go completely without food and water until sunset. Eating and drinking in designated areas is acceptable and a vast number of hotel restaurants put on a food service during the day but it’s always best to check ahead for specific meal times before you travel. Oh, and throughout the city you’ll spot cordoned-off tents where food and drink can be consumed and malls tend to curtain their food courts so non-Muslims can eat – just ask someone for advice if you’re not sure.

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There's No Shortage of Things To Do

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Ramadan in Dubai will put limitations on your holiday fun. The emirate is constantly thriving and is slowly taking over from New York as the city that never sleeps and during Ramadan there’s a whole host of cultural entertainment and festivals that take place. Many restaurants and shopping malls in Dubai have a special late opening time during Ramadan to accommodate prayer times and the breaking of the fast. The Ramadan night market in the Dubai World Trade Centre is popular among locals and tourists alike where you’ll find fashion, cosmetics and souvenirs alongside the excellent sales at the likes of Dubai Mall. 

If you’re visiting Dubai when Ramadan is coming to an end, you’ll be in the city during Eid al Fitr – which translates to ‘festival of breaking of the fast’ – an excellent time to experience the vibrant celebrations amongst Muslims that tourists are welcome to join. The city is awash with cultural performances and dance shows across a two to three-day public holiday while Emiratis get together to exchange gifts and celebrations. Oh, and nightclubs usually re-open at this time too and restaurants return back to their normal order of business. 

Same Dubai, But Less Crowded

Believe it or not, Ramadan is the ideal time to visit the UAE due to the popular myth that the cities are on lockdown for a month. This couldn’t be more untrue! Many popular tourist attractions will be less busy at this time which means you can beat the crowds and make the most of the emirate while its considerably quieter than usual. Most attractions remain open but operate with abbreviated hours in order to observe and respect the holiday. For example, the Burj Khalifa is open from 10am rather than the usual 8:30am and the Desert Safari and BBQ Dinner operates as normal with the exception of the live performances. If you’re in doubt about the opening times of your desired attraction, simply check online, call the venue or ask your hotel concierge. 

Everyone is Invited to Iftar 

Iftar, meaning the breaking of the fast, is the first meal Muslims partake in after sunset and is usually first broken with dates and a drink of water, juice or Arabic coffee. Prayers then begin which is followed by the serving of Iftar, traditionally a family affair where Emiratis invite their loved ones for a large feast. Trust us when we say that this is the time of day when the city comes alive – especially in the restaurants. With hundreds of eateries to choose from, offering the likes of Middle Eastern buffets to á la carte contemporary cuisine, be prepared to indulge alongside the locals during this exciting time of day. 

Can’t wait to begin your Dubai adventure? We thought so! Get in touch with one of our personal travel managers by calling 0203 816 0985 or click here to submit an enquiry. 

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