Dubai thrums with serenity throughout Ramadan, when stores close, the faithful fast, and the city empties. If your visit lands during the Islamic holy month, you’re in for fewer lines, more culture, and a great time. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the Islamic lunar month of obligatory fasting, intense prayer, and spiritual reflection, as well as nightly feasts and fun. It falls at a different time each year, during which Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, tobacco, and sex from sunrise to sundown to focus on their worship. Nightfall sees lively meals called iftar shared with friends and family, while Islam’s biggest holiday, Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan with three days of eating, thanking, and gift-giving.
Be mindful of rules and traditions.
While non-Muslims aren’t expected to fast, eating, drinking, and smoking are prohibited in public during daylight hours. Refrain from swearing or playing loud music in public, and be aware that everyone is expected to dress modestly—women should cover their shoulders with a pashmina or shawl, and all visitors should cover their legs (down to the knee). Swimwear is acceptable in beach and pool areas.
Plan your meals in advance.
With shorter work hours and a fasting public, daytime food options are limited and last-minute dinner reservations impossible as Muslims meet to break their fast. Map out international hotels and shopping centers, which cater to hungry visitors and sometimes offer daytime meals, and always carry water—a city tour of Abu Dhabi is a good way to secure a cultural experience and a meal at a seven-star hotel.
Immerse yourself in the culture.
Don’t be shy! Try fasting for a day on a desert safari before breaking into a traditional iftar with your guide, or take a guided walking tour through Old Dubai to learn about Emirati culture and visit the Dubai Museum.
Sightsee in the city.
Dubai’s top attractions see way smaller crowds during the Holy Month. Book a guided city tour to see architectural masterpieces such as the Burj Khalifa and Burj al-Arab hotel or learn about the holiday at mosques, souks, and royal palaces.
When Ramadan breaks at nightfall, Dubai comes to life (perhaps even more so than usual). Malls stay open later and suhoors, or pre-dawn meals, keep people moving into the early hours.