The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is observed with great attention and ceremony in Dubai, and is the one time of the year when you really get the sense of being in an essentially Muslim city. For Muslims, Ramadan represents a period in which to purify mind and body and to reaffirm one’s relationship with God. Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk, and as a tourist you will be expected to publicly observe these strictures, although you are free to eat and drink in the privacy of your own hotel room, or in any of the carefully screened-off dining areas set up in hotels throughout the city (alcohol is also served discreetly in some places after dark, but not during the day). Eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum in public, however, is a definite no-no, and will cause considerable offence to local Muslims; singing, dancing and swearing in public are similarly frowned upon. In addition, live music is also completely forbidden during the holy month (though recorded music is allowed), while the city’s nightclubs all close for the duration, and many shops scale back their opening hours.
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Fasting ends at dusk, at which point the previously comatose city springs to life in a celebratory round of eating, drinking and socializing known as Iftar (“The Breaking of the Fast”). Many of the city’s top hotels set up superb “Iftar tents”, with lavish Arabian buffets, and things remain lively until the small hours, when everyone goes off to bed in preparation for another day of abstinence. The atmosphere is particularly exuberant, and the Iftar tents especially lavish, during Eid ul Fitr, the day marking the end of Ramadan, when the entire city erupts in an explosion of celebratory festivity.
Falling approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan, on the tenth day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul Hijja, Eid al Adha (the “Festival of the Sacrifice”) celebrates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail at the command of God (although having proved his obedience, he was permitted to sacrifice a ram instead). The festival also marks the end of the traditional pilgrimage season to Mecca. Eid al Adha is celebrated in Dubai with a four-day holiday, during which lambs are sacrificed and the meat divided among the poor. No alcohol is served on the day before the festival day itself.
Ramadan Scheduled to run from approximately June 28 to July 27, 2014; June 18 to July 16, 2015; June 6 to July 4, 2016; May 27 to June 24, 2017. Precise dates vary according to local astronomical sightings of the moon.
Eid ul Fitr Estimated dates: July 28, 2014; July 17, 2015; July 5, 2016; June 25, 2017.
Eid al Adha Estimated dates: Oct 4, 2014; Sept 23, 2015; Sept 11, 2016; Sept 1, 2017.