Holidays in the UAE, dates and detailed descriptions

Holidays in the UAE.

When, what and how are the holidays in the Arab Emirates? Which holidays have weekends and which do not? Which holidays are of interest to tourists? And on what days is it not recommended to come? Read the answers and see the calendar of holidays in the UAE.

Breaking news!

Now is not a holiday in the UAE, but the opposite – mourning! Mourning will last until June 22, 2022 (the 40th day of the president’s death).

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emir of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE, passed away at the age of 73 on May 13, 2022. Read more about him in the article “Sheikhs of the UAE”.

Warning. Entertainment events may be cancelled during the mourning period.

Holidays weekend in 2022

As of January 3, 2022, holidays have changed in the UAE. A 4½-day work week has been introduced. The weekends are now the second half of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. See our article “Fridays and Weekends in the UAE” for all the details.

Holidays have already been announced for 2022.

Eid al-Fitr will have 3 weekends – May 2, 3 and 4 (Monday-Wednesday). Eid al-Adha will have an extra day off on July 11 (Monday). There will be no extra days off for the Prophet’s Birthday and the Islamic New Year because July 30 is a Saturday and October 8 is a Saturday. For Memorial Day and UAE Day, there will be 2 extra days off on December 1 and 2 (Thursday and Friday).

This is important!

First. First, we’ll give you the calendar for the current year and next year. Right behind the calendar, read the descriptions of all the holidays.

Second. The Arab Emirates is a very religious country. Most of the national holidays in the UAE are Islamic holidays, and their dates are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar. Accordingly, the dates according to our (Gregorian) calendar change each year. In the description of each such holiday, we will give the dates several years in advance.

Third. Not all holidays in the UAE are declared holidays. Each year the list of holidays changes. Authorities increase the number of weekends if they need to “cool down” the economy. They decrease the number of weekends if they need to “spur” the economy. In the table below, weekends are highlighted in green.

Fourth. In some cases, the UAE applies a weekend postponement if the holiday falls on a weekend (Friday or Saturday).

Calendar of holidays for 2022 and 2023

2022 2023
New Year January 1 and 2 January 1
Isra and Mirage* March 1 February 18
Month of Ramadan April 2 – May 1 March 21 – April 20
Eid al-Fitr April 30-May 4 April 21-24
Araf Day July 8 June 28
Eid Al Adha July 9-11 June 29-July 1
Al-Hijri (Islamic New Year) July 30 July 19
Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad October 8 September 27
Flag Day November 3 November 3
Memorial Day December 1 December 1
UAE Education Day December 2-3 December 2-3

* – Holidays according to the Islamic lunar calendar. Dates according to the forecast, the actual date may change. In Islam, the phase of the moon is determined by their own methods, and the arrival of a certain date can be announced a day later or a day earlier.

Also we want to note that the Islamic holidays can be on different days in different countries, because the moon is observed differently in different regions of our planet.

Below we will talk about each holiday in the UAE in detail.

New Year

Fireworks on New Year's Eve.

The center of New Year celebrations in the UAE is the Downtown area in the emirate of Dubai. Here they arrange a spectacular pyrotechnic show, the fireworks are launched not only from the ground, but also from the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. As it looks, see the photo next to, click on the photo to enlarge.

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Recently there is also a laser show, lasers project a picture on the surface of the Burj Khalifa. Fireworks are also staged in Jumeirah on The Palm and around the Burj Al Arab.

In other emirates, the New Year celebrations are much more modest. Sharjah has its own fireworks display on Al Majaz Promenade. And in Abu Dhabi there are pyrotechnical shows on the Corniche promenade and Yas Island.

The day off in the UAE is January 1. This is the end of the New Year holidays for the Emiratians.

January 2 is a full working day, if it is not on Saturday or Sunday – the days off in the UAE. Since 2022, the Arab Emirates have switched to a 4½-day workweek. Read more in our review of Fridays and weekends in the UAE.

Isra and Miraj.

Isra and miraj prayers.

Religious holiday. It is celebrated on the 27th day of the month of Rajab according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

Translated to the Gregorian calendar: 2020 – March 22, 2021 – March 11, 2022 – March 1, 2023 – February 18, 2024 – February 7, 2025 – January 27.

The name roughly translates to “journey and ascension.” It is the day the angel Jabra’il appeared to the Prophet Muhammad and carried him from Mecca to Jerusalem. From the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven, where he received the five pillars of Islam from Allah.

This holiday used to be a day off, but in recent years it has not been designated a day off in the UAE.

The Muslims don’t celebrate the holiday in any colorful way. Some of the believers are fasting.

For the tourists it is not a holiday, but rather the opposite. Some stores and restaurants are closed, alcohol is no longer sold and poured in the bars from evening until the end of the next day. However, each emirate has its own rules regarding alcohol during Isra and Miraj.

The Month of Ramadan

This holy month in Islam is the month of fasting. No days off are declared for Ramadan, but many believers consider it akin to a holiday.

For tourists in Ramadan there are both great pros and great cons. Read our detailed review “Ramadan in the UAE” about it.

Eid-el-Fitr (Feast of the Feast of Brood)

Eid al-Fitr lunch

This holiday is also called Uraza Bayram or Ramadan Bayram. It is the celebration of the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan, that is, the first day of the month of Shawwal.

Translated to the Gregorian calendar: 2020 – May 24, 2021 – May 13, 2022 – May 2, 2023 – April 21, 2024 – April 10, 2025 – March 31.

Weekends are usually scheduled for the 30th day of the month of Ramadan, the day of Eid al-Fitr and the day following it.

It is not customary to hold any major events on this day in the UAE. The celebration begins on the morning of Eid-el-Fitr with a solemn prayer. In the afternoon, it is customary to have a hearty and solemn family meal. So the stores are often crowded, and the lines at the cashiers can be huge.

But there is a silver lining: the malls and supermarkets have a lot of promotions for the holiday. Eid al-Fitr is the best time for shopping. There are always discounts at the water and amusement parks, but the attractions are jam-packed with people.

The Day of Araf (Arafat)

Arafah Hill

It is celebrated on the 2nd day of the pilgrimage to Mecca. It is believed that any good deeds or sins are multiplied on this day.

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Translated into the Gregorian calendar: 2020 – July 30, 2021 – July 19, 2022 – July 8, 2023 – June 28, 2024 – June 16, 2025 – June 6.

Araf Day is an official holiday in the UAE. No pompous celebrations are held on this day. It is considered to be the best day for a believing Muslim to spend in prayer. Some people fast.

The pilgrims go on this day to the Arafa hill, 20 kilometers from Mecca. It was on this hill that the prophet Muhammad gave his last great sermon before his death.

Near the hill they stand, pray, repent, and purify themselves of their sins from noon to sunset. This is called wukuf (standing before Allah). Without a wukuf on the Hill of Arafah, the pilgrimage is considered invalid. See the photo above for what the hill looks like on this day, click on the photo to enlarge.

Eid al-Adha.

Preparing a ram for the holiday

In our country, this holiday is known as Eid al-Adha, which translates to “Feast of Sacrifice.” It is celebrated immediately after the Day of Araf and lasts for two days.

It is a holiday in honor of the believer Ibrahim, who was ready to sacrifice his son (the name of the son is not mentioned). However, Allah did not allow the sacrifice to take place. The story almost exactly repeats the biblical legend of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac.

Translated into the Gregorian calendar: 2020 – July 31 – August 1, 2021 – July 20-21, 2022 – July 9-10, 2023 – June 29-30, 2024 – June 17-18, 2025 – June 7-8.

Both days are weekends. It turns out that the weekend lasts for three days in a row: 1 Day of Araf + 2 days of Eid al-Adha.

On this day, Muslims perform the additional morning Eid prayer. It is customary to meet with relatives and friends. In the UAE they organize street parties, children’s festivals, and hold fireworks in the evening.

The most exciting question for the Russians! Probably many readers are aware that on Eid al-Adha it is customary to sacrifice a ram. Actually, it can be a sheep, or a goat, or a goat; each country has its own preferences and possibilities. Question: Is there a public sacrifice in the UAE?

Answer: No, they do not, it has long been forbidden by the sanitary laws of the country. The animal is slaughtered either at home (which is a rarity nowadays) or in a public slaughterhouse. It is customary to keep one third of the meat of the sacrificial animal, one third to give to friends and relatives, and one third to donate to the poor.

Al-Hijri – Islamic New Year

Praying on New Year

It occurs on the first day of the month of Muharram according to the lunar Islamic calendar.

Translated into the Gregorian calendar: 2020 – August 20, 2021 – August 10, 2022 – July 30, 2023 – July 19, 2024 – July 8, 2025 – June 27.

There used to be three days off on New Year’s Day. Now there is only one.

Alcohol is not sold on the first day of the month of Muharram, and in some emirates on the second and third days. There are no mass events. For the faithful, it is recommended to spend this time in reflection and prayer.

Interestingly, the Islamic New Year does not come at midnight or even at night. It comes with sunset, when the muezzin shouts the call to the night prayer (namaz) “isha. If you hear the call, it means the New Year has come.

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The name “Al-Hijri” is translated as “departure. The Islamic calendar dates back to the departure of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 according to the Gregorian calendar. Muhammad learned that he was going to be killed and was forced to leave Mecca.

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday

Gathering for Mawlid

This holiday is also called “Mawlid.” It is celebrated on the 12th day of the month of Rabi al-Awwal. It is declared a day off, but no big events are held. There are lectures and seminars on religious topics for young people.

Translated into the Gregorian calendar: 2020 – October 29, 2021 – October 19, 2022 – October 8, 2023 – September 27, 2024 – September 16, 2025 – September 5.

Now only one day off is declared for the Prophet’s birthday in the UAE.

It is an interesting fact that the UAE celebrates Mawlid, while neighboring Saudi Arabia does not. The fact is that the Emirati are Sunni (85%) and Shiite (15%), and they celebrate Mawlid. The residents of Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, are Salafists, and they consider this holiday wrong. In the opinion of the Russians, all Arabs in the Persian Gulf are the same. But as you can see, they are far from being the same.

There used to be a tradition of reciting poems in honor of Muhammad on Mavlid, and there were even chants. These songs and poems could be heard right on the street. Now it’s a rarity.

Flag Day

UAE flags

It is celebrated on November 3. The holiday is young – introduced in 2013.

Flag Day is NOT a day off now.

An interesting fact is that the Nov. 3 date has nothing to do with the flag. It is the anniversary of Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zayd Al Nahyan’s inauguration as president in 2004.

On this day, it is customary to display the flag of the United Arab Emirates. We spoke about the flag in detail in the article “Flag of the United Arab Emirates”. Flag-raising ceremonies are usually held at 11:00 am. In Abu Dhabi, the largest such ceremony can be seen at the flagpole behind the Heritage Village. In Dubai at the flagpole at the Etihad Museum. In Sharjah, at the flagpole on Al Majaz Island.

It is also a day to commemorate the founding fathers of the UAE country. These are first and foremost Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum. Read about them in our articles Sheikhs of the Arab Emirates and Sheikh Zayed, the Father of the UAE.

Memorial Day (Martyrs’ Day)

UAE Army

Celebrated on December 1 (as of 2019). Before 2019, it was celebrated on November 30. The holiday was moved to avoid creating a “window” between Memorial Day and UAE Day on Dec. 2.

It is the youngest holiday in the UAE, introduced in 2015. The day is declared a day off. It is a holiday to commemorate all Emiratis who died for their country. The first was a soldier named Salem ibn Hamis Suhail, he died Nov. 30, 1971, on Grand Tunb Island when the island was attacked by Iranian troops.

From 8 to 11 a.m., national flags are lowered across the country. At 11:30 there is a moment of silence, followed by the anthem. That’s the whole celebration.

This holiday seems very strange to the Russians. The UAE has not participated in major wars or bloody conflicts, the number of deaths on the battlefields in the history of the UAE is about a hundred people. The UAE army suffered the maximum losses in the operation in Yemen, 45 soldiers were killed.

The names of all the dead Emiratis can be seen in Abu Dhabi. There is a large memorial in their honor in front of the Sheikh Zayd Mosque. It is a pity that the names are written only in Arabic.

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UAE Education Day (National Day)

UAE aviation

It is celebrated on December 2. It is also a day off on the 3rd of December.

This is the main secular holiday in the Arab Emirates. On this day in 1971, the emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain and Fujairah signed a treaty of unification. In 1972 the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah joined the treaty.

It is celebrated with great pomp. Fireworks, festivals, entertainment, decorating the streets and squares. Abu Dhabi hosts a military parade and demonstration of military equipment, the UAE Air Force show. See photos from the air show next, click on the photo to enlarge.

Emiratis dress up and paint their cars. Driving through the streets with flags sticking out of the windows. It is somewhat like Moscow on those days when the Russian national soccer team wins a match in a major tournament.

If you are in the UAE on December 2, you will see that not everyone in the country shares the holiday extravaganza. The fact is that of the 10 million inhabitants only 1 million have citizenship. Read more in our article “Population of UAE”.

Friday

In Islam, Friday is the holy day of the week. You could say that it is a mini holiday. The opening hours of sights change and some shopping facilities are closed. Read more in our review “Friday in the UAE”.

Enjoy your holiday in the UAE, and read our articles about the country ( list of articles below ).

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How do I calculate the number of working hours per month? The contract says 48 hours per week

Holidays in the UAE.

The UAE is a country of contrasts, where you can see the rigid adherence to the canons of Islam, nomads, camels and skyscrapers, banks and all the benefits of civilization.

And the contrasts are not limited to only one sphere, they penetrate literally everywhere, touching different aspects of life. In a word, the UAE deserves to be shown an interest.

New Year

The UAE is a country of different cultures. Even a dozen years ago, it seemed that the inhabitants here are predominantly Arabs, but a huge number of hired workers have made this state more colorful. As a result, this country now has hundreds of nationalities, and each has its own cultural context.

Muslims have their own New Year and it is completely unrelated to noisy fun, because it is considered a day of purification.

And so in the UAE, Muslims have gradually begun to reach out to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. At the same time they consider this celebration as a secular one, which means it does not contradict the canons of Islam. But at the same time, Muslims do not recognize the Gregorian calendar, because they use the lunar calendar. In general, the Koran points out the two calendars that can be used, the solar and the lunar calendars. However, the Prophet clearly preferred the lunar calendar, which is why most of the faithful use it.

The main events unfold in Dubai. The metropolis is decorated with garlands, posters, streets and facades are washed. Large-scale sales are taking place everywhere. Joyful tourists mingle with the hustle and bustle of the holiday movement.

At the center of the festivities is the largest and most enormous fireworks display in the world. The shots are fired from 20 different locations, making the sky literally bloom in gigantic colors. Tickets for the most comfortable positions, where you will have an incredible view, are sold in advance.

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Nightclubs in the UAE invite the world’s best DJs. Also, well-known international performers are eagerly invited here.

The UAE is associated with camels. The government decided to hold a Camel Festival in the name of heritage preservation. As part of the festival, visitors can not only get up close and personal with these animals, but also just to learn about Arabian crafts and folklore.

The festival is held each year in early April, the date is set by the government and may change.

The festival takes place in the city of Zaida, which is famous for its camels in the Middle East. The festival lasts for 9 days, in which the participating animals will compete in beauty and speed (running). Both dark-skinned and light-skinned camels are brought here. The former are bred for milk, wool, skin and meat. The latter are mainly needed as pack animals, as they are famous for their strength and endurance. It is they who are most often involved in races.

Before the beginning of the festival, there is an auction where you can buy an animal. However, this pleasure is not for the poor, because the prices here are insane.

As for the races themselves, they are of most interest to spectators. Formally, no bets are accepted, but you can bet privately. The races can be for different distances, mostly different variants from 4 to 10 kilometers are practiced.

Comparatively young and colorful, which attracts music lovers from all over the world. Held at the very end of October and early November in Dubai. It is a very progressive phenomenon for the Arab world, as it invites performers from Europe, including Western Europe, Turkey, South Africa, Latin America and many others.

Within the framework of the festival there are events for different age groups.

The festival was organized by the authorities in order to support the flow of tourists, declining at this time due to the hot and dry weather. The event was held for the first time in ’98 and has since enjoyed immense popularity.

The festival is practically for children: there are performances and musical evenings, exhibitions and various workshops. Much is free.

Opens the event flower week, part of Dubai will literally drown in bouquets. The second is the ethnic week, visitors are invited to learn about the history, culture and folklore. The third week is the ice week, you can watch the ice shows or go to the huge ice rink. The culinary week is an opportunity for visitors to get to know the great cuisines of Arabic, Indian, Filipino and many other cuisines.

Tech week features exhibits with the latest in the industry. And the nature week allows you to admire the magnificent botanical garden, go to a seminar dedicated to ecology or a photo exhibition with rare images.

This festival began as a one-day event, but now it has grown to two days, because it is simply impossible to fit all the people who want to perform here in one day. Every year up to 10,000 rock and metal fans come here. The date varies, but it’s always the beginning of March. Of those who have performed here, we can mention Rasmus, Korn, Muse and many others.

The festival has artists doing very daring tattoos and graffiti painting, which makes the venue look incredible.

Everyone noted the excellent level of security that has been provided for literally everything here. Everything is thought out, from toilets to food.

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