Page update - Sep 14, 2022
Ramadan is the holy month for Islam. How does it affect tourists? What are advantages and disadvantages of vacation during Ramadan? What restrictions? How do the prices for hotels and flights change? Read the answers in this review.
On November 8, 2020, important amendments to the UAE laws came into force. The amendments include rules for tourists during Ramadan. Details are below on this page.
This page was updated on September 14, 2022, and the holy month of Ramadan has already ended (May 1 was the last day of the month). Recall that the exact dates are determined by the lunar calendar and can change even on the last day. Eid al-Fitr (the holiday at the end of Ramadan) was held on May 2, 3, and 4.
Ramadan 2023 is scheduled for March 22 to April 21, 2023. Eid al-Fitr 2023 will be on April 22 and 23, which will be a Saturday and Sunday. The UAE days off will probably be moved, but it is not yet known exactly how. We'll be sure to let you know when the exact information will come.
Ramadan (or Ramazan) is the 9th month of the lunar Islamic calendar. It is believed that during this month Allah began to impart the teachings of Islam to the prophet Mohammed, which were later compiled into the book of the Koran.
Muslims consider this to be the most blessed time of the year. As a companion of the Prophet Mohammed, al-Hurairah, said, "In Ramadan the gates of paradise open, the gates of hell are shut, and all demons are put in chains".
Recall that the months in the Islamic lunar calendar don't match with the months of the familiar Gregorian calendar. The month of Ramadan moves forward by about 10 days each year in our calendar.
A month in the Islamic lunar calendar lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the phases of the moon.
Below is a table with the dates.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan (fasting is called "saum") is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five acts of worship that every faithful Muslim must perform.
But Islamic fasting is not like Christian fasting. While Christians limit their diet, Muslims do not eat at all, but only from sunrise to sunset. Before sunrise it is allowed to eat, and that is called Suhur. After sunset, it is allowed to eat, and this meal is called Iftar.
From sunrise to sunset Muslims can neither eat, nor drink, nor smoke. The prohibition relates to any ingestion of anything, even chewing gum is forbidden. An interesting point is that taking water in the mouth during bathing is also a violation of the fast.
Fasting is mandatory for all adult Muslims, except for the sick, those on a difficult journey, pregnant women, lactating mothers, diabetics, menstruating women, and children under 12 years of age.
Any good deed or any sin when performed during Ramadan is multiplied. So, haggling with Muslims in this month is a useful thing to do.
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Most Islamic countries do not have any law that obliges somebody to fast. But the UAE has such a law - it is the UAE Penal Code Article 313-A. It is forbidden for anyone, including tourists, to drink, eat or do anything that breaks the fast during the daytime hours of Ramadan.
The penalty is up to 1,000 dirhams fine or up to 1 month imprisonment. In practice, tourists are not punished under this article, at least such cases have not been mentioned in the press for a long time. The police usually only make explanations. If the offender does not listen, they can take him to the police station to sit for a while, to calm down, to think.
A very important note! The legal situation in the UAE is complicated with the Ramadan rules. On the one hand, Article 313 of the Criminal Code is in force! On the other hand, the rules are being violated everywhere. The UAE doesn't have enough police to be on duty at every corner to catch violators. Besides, the police have better things to do than catch tourists eating pie in the street. By the way, during Ramadan 2023, the police have taken up catching beggars.
We urge you not to break the law at all to reduce the chance of a fine to zero.
Since 2018, authorities in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi started a very interesting tradition. They mounted a cannon near the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The cannon shot notifies people of the end of the fast. If you hear the shot, you can eat, drink, smoke. See the gun in the photo next to, click on the photo to enlarge.
In Dubai, there are usually five such guns. But in 2022, the Dubai Police set up 11 more cannons in different areas of Dubai City and in Hatta. Don't be surprised that the police are armed with artillery cannons. This is normal in the UAE.
Tourists are allowed to eat and drink during the day in a restaurant or cafe (behind closed doors), but some of the catering venues are closed during the day. Opened cafes and restaurants often close the tables with screens. In Dubai in Ramadan 2021 the screens are officially abolished.
Unpleasant news for those tourists who like to rent cars. It is forbidden to eat, drink, smoke even in private transport.
Previously, the law prohibited the sale of alcohol during Ramadan. Only in the Emirate of Dubai some bars received a special license and poured alcohol. Amendments on November 8, 2020 removed the ban on alcohol during Ramadan. However, each emirate has the right to set its own local bans.
The dress code does not change in Ramadan, read about the dress code in our review "Laws for tourists in the UAE". However, the strictness of control increases. If in any other month, the police or security guard would not pay attention to too deep cleavage, but in Ramadan they may show displeasure and ask to change clothes.
Cultural sights operate on a reduced schedule, usually with a long break in the middle of the day. In the last 10 days of the month they may close at all or work a couple of hours a day.
Entertainment and fun is not welcome. Live music disappears from restaurants, discos don't work, and some amusement parks stop working.
There is no single law or rule for the opening hours of parks and museums. Each park or museum decides this issue individually. Read our pages about attractions in the UAE, where we detail the opening hours of each site, including during Ramadan.
Once the sun goes down, it is allowed to eat. However, it often becomes even more difficult to eat. Many restaurants are fully packed, some are busy serving public tables and iftar tents. You may nor find a seat or wait for the order for a very long time.
People rush home for family iftar dinners, some rush to the restaurant to have dinner with friends. Traffic during the first hour after sunset is terrible. In addition, Muslim drivers are tired after a day without water and food, and number of accidents in this first hour after sunset goes up.
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Large tables and tents are set up near mosques for iftar (evening meals). The food is free of charge at these tables. In 2013, a record-breaking one-kilometer-long table was set up near the Al-Noor Mosque in the Emirate of Sharjah. The table accommodated 2,500 people.
In 2021, iftar tables and tents in the UAE were banned by the authorities. This was a measure against the spread of the coronavirus. In 2022 the tents were allowed again, but with strict restrictions.
Travel to the UAE during the month of Ramadan has both advantages and disadvantages. We have already talked about the negatives in detail, now let's note the positives.
The main positive side is the price decrease. Hotels at this time are filled poorly, and hoteliers are trying to attract tourists with discounts. Discounts of up to 50% during Ramadan are normal.
The second advantage is a low load of hotels. There are free rooms in almost any hotel, you can check-in even today.
If all you need are only sea, sun and beach, then think. If in other months, a five-star hotel on the first line was too expensive, then in Ramadan the price may be quite acceptable. The ban on eating, smoking, and drinking does not apply in hotels.
In addition to the holy month, Islam has a holy day of the week - Friday, which has its own features for tourists. Read our review "Friday in the UAE".
Have a good holiday in the UAE, and read our interesting and useful pages about this country (see the list of pages below).
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