Travelling to Dubai during Ramadan.
By Helen Debrahampofo
If you’re planning on visiting to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or any other Emirate during the Holy Month of Ramadan, this post is for you. First of all, you can travel here and even relocate here during this time but there will be a few things to consider, which I will detail in this article. Also, bear in mind that this information is most accurate at the time of writing: in April 2022 in the midst of a global pandemic. Here’s everything you need to consider if you are travelling to Dubai during Ramadan (with a few COVID extras).
Ramadan is a holy month which takes place in the 9th Month of the Islamic Year. It’s when when Muslims all over the world fast, pray, reflect on their blessings and reach out to those who are less fortunate. It lasts for 30 days and is also a time when families gather together and celebrate at Iftars and Suhoors, which finally culminates at Eid (a three day long celebration at the end of Ramadan). Unless prevented by medical issues, all Muslims of puberty age are expected to fast food and water between sunrise and sunset during this Holy Month. As Ramadan follows the Islamic lunar calendar, meaning each month begins with the new astronomical moon, the dates for the month long prayer and fasting typically moves 10 days earlier every year.
Following evolving restrictions during the global pandemic and the success of Expo 2020, Dubai is still very much open. I’ve been instructed by residents to tell you that you can visit Dubai City for as much gold, Mehendi designs and abayas as your heart desires (hey, that rhymes). If you’re into photography too, you’ll never be short of beautiful architecture, perfect for your Instagram aesthetics. And there are always plenty of things to do even though the nation is fasting.
To be honest, this question is not exclusive to Ramadan and as an experienced traveler, I believe it never hurts to be respectful when visiting someone else’s country. For Ramadan, I’d say go the extra mile in terms of your modesty to accommodate those who are fasting: keep your shoulders and legs covered where possible. Abu Dhabi tends to be more conservative than Dubai which overall is generally more relaxed.
Everything is still open during Ramadan: malls, restaurants, attractions etc. However, what you have to be aware of is that the country now operates on Ramadan Hours.
Businesses accommodate those who are fasting so have shorter working hours during the day. Businesses are typically closed for Iftar (around 6.30-7.15pm throughout the month, depending on sunset times) and open again for a few hours afterwards. Typically, malls and restaurants will stay open until the early hours of the morning during Ramadan. Typically, hotels, restaurants and clubs may change menus, opening times and brunch availability, opting to shift to later timings or pause until after Ramadan. Secular music also may be lowered in volume or switched to Arabic music during fasting hours or for the duration of the month. If you are planning on going out, make sure you call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Muslims are fasting nationwide but non-Muslims are in no way expected to fast. So the short answer is yes but again, please be mindful of those who are fasting. Where possible, eat and drink in private and avoid drinking water and chewing gum in front of those fasting. Depending on the Emirate, some restaurants may be closed during the day or may only have delivery options available. Some restaurants which are still open may opt for a screen or curtain to prevent onlookers from seeing inside. Chefs tend to have their extractor fans on full blast to stop the smell of their food escaping. I will say, though, that the longer I’ve been here, the more lenient things have become for non-Muslims who are not fasting. And in Dubai in particular, everything appears to be going on as normal. For regular brunches and dining locations, do check menus, timings and availability as these may change to accommodate Iftars (see below).
Yes. Privately in your home, in designated hotels and in licensed restaurants. This is the same in the UAE irrespective of Ramadan. Muslims do not drink alcohol but non-Muslims are allowed, the UAE are very tolerant in that regard.
It’s pretty much business as usual in Dubai. If there are any restrictions in place, they are to prevent accidents occurring and also to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
My favourite thing about Ramadan has to be Iftars. This is the meal Muslims have after they break their fast at sunset (around 6.45-7.15pm). Restaurants are also open between 9pm-2am for a Suhoor meal. In the UAE, for non-Muslims, it’s an opportunity for us to eat buffet-style every night. But I’ll warn you now, it’s not for the fainthearted. Restaurants bring out pretty much their whole menus at a discounted price which is great for the wallets and tastebuds but terrible for the waistline. If you are here during Ramadan, you must try an Iftar or Suhoor or both (just maybe not on the same night)!
At the end of Ramadan, there is a three day long celebration called Eid-Al-Fitr. Eid translates to ‘feast’ in English and in the UAE, they don’t take this word lightly at all. If you are visiting, I’d encourage you to take part an Eid celebration as a way to experience traditional Arab/Muslim culture.
Another thing to look forward to during Ramadan is the extreme generosity displayed. People are generally more giving during this period; I remember pre-COVID, seeing images of hoards of people gathered at mosques sharing free Iftar meals together. Nowadays, people have to be creative with how they distribute meals.
Stores will also be demonstrating their generosity by having huge discounts so make sure you take advantage of those if you’re travelling here. And if you’re around for Eid, there will be further reductions! Parking is normally free during iftar (roughly 6pm-8pm) and for residents, we are known to get our parking fines slashed in half or they may disappear altogether. I love this time of year!
Would you still travel to Dubai during Ramadan or would you prefer to visit at another time? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post about Ramadan in the UAE. To get a glimpse of life in the UAE during this time and for more information and resources, make sure you’re following me on Instagram @hdebrahampofo! Below are some other ways you can stay connected.