What to expect if you are visiting Dubai during Ramadan

For a lot of people, Ramadan is the time of the year when the internet gets flooded with discounts and lucrative deals for visiting Dubai and one can't help but want to book a flight immediately because let's face it, travelling to Dubai is hardly ever cheap! However, one doesn't really know what they're in for when they're visiting Dubai during Ramadan. There are both pros and cons to travelling to this region during this Holy Month and as long as you're willing to respect certain rules, which might seem conservative to some, your visit to Dubai during Ramadan can be a highly enlightening experience culturally.


What is Ramadan?

Dubai during Ramadan

Understanding the meaning and reason behind following this Holy Month will make it a lot easier for you to know what to expect when you're visiting Dubai during Ramadan. Every year, for 30 days, which fall during the 9th month of the Lunar-based Islamic calendar, Muslims observe fasting from sunrise until sunset in reverence to the Quran being revealed to Prophet Mohammed centuries ago. During this month, they abstain from eating, drinking, sex and other human 'vices' during daylight hours and also indulge in regular prayers and charitable acts.

Visiting Dubai during Ramadan means you'll have to be prepared to see a drastic shift from a fast-paced, lively and chaotic city to a quieter, serene and religiously-oriented one. Contrary to the popular perception that the UAE is an extremely conservative country, it is actually quite tourist-friendly and is home to many expats (which form more than 80% of the population) which makes it a lot more modern and accepting than its neighbours. Dubai, in particular, slacks many rules which other Middle Eastern countries expect its residents and visitors to follow, and is accepting of other cultures openly. However, during Ramadan, some rules are put in place only to make it easier for the people who're fasting and although these rules are enforced to a great extent, many allowances are made for the non-fasting people too. For example, while several restaurants close their dine-in area, some remain open for home delivery. In recent years, many restaurants have begun to cover small parts of their indoor seating area and allow the non-fasting visitors to dine in.

Dubai during Ramadan


When does Ramadan happen?

Every year, the dates of Ramadan move about 15 days earlier according to the Gregorian calendar which means while in the last few years, the Holy Month would fall during the summer months where the treacherous heat was a big drawback for tourists, this year as well as the following years, it is likely to move towards the cooler winter months, which are also the peak tourist season in Dubai.  In 2019, Ramadan falls in the month of May (likely to start on the 6th) with the exact dates to be revealed based on moon sighting 2-3 nights before the expected start date.

The Holy Month comes to an end with a big bang celebration - Eid Al Fitr, which lasts for about 3 days. While most residents travel during this period, a lot of people from the neighbouring Gulf countries visit Dubai at this time to indulge in the feasts, watch spectacular shows and performances, benefit from massive sales in the malls, watch the brilliant fireworks across the city and be a part of an extremely lively atmosphere.

Malls are likely to be packed, the airport sees a huge surge in the passengers, and taxis are hard to find. So while the vibe is pretty amazing, if you're not a fan of crowded places, you might want to take a day trip from Dubai to the other Emirates, which are likely to be quieter.

Dubai during Ramadan

Booking.com

Recommended hotel to stay in Dubai: Citymax Bur Dubai


Visiting Dubai during Ramadan

What NOT to do

Do NOT eat or drink in public during daylight

This is one rule that needs to be strictly followed, except for children, pregnant women and medically unfit people. However, you're not expected to fast. Many malls have begun to allocate a specific area in their food courts during the day time, covered off and not visible to the outside, for the non-fasting people. You're, however, not allowed to carry any food or drinks outside the allocated area. Most bars and lounges do not serve alcohol during the day (another trend that has slowly begun to change slowly but not widely) and no loud music or entertainment is allowed throughout the month, even after sunset. This means, although you WILL enjoy local cuisine and delicacies in a Bedouin camp following your Desert Safari, you will not be able to experience the belly dancing or Tanoura folk dance. Most hotels continue to serve meals, though it is unlikely to be in open areas such as the pool/ beach. Not eating/ drinking in public includes the metro and even taxis. This extends to smoking and chewing gum as well.

Dress conservatively

More than as a rule, you must follow this out of respect, especially in family areas such as malls and entertainment venues. You can, however, wear beachwear when on a public/ private beach or swimming pool. People (both men and women) are expected to keep their shoulders & knees covered (no need to cover your head) and wear loose-fitting clothes ideally. You won't get arrested or told off if you do not follow these guidelines but it is always nice to be respectful of the local culture and norms, especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Do NOT play loud music

During this month, most clubs remain closed and bars are not allowed to play loud music or have entertainment of any sort, even after sunset. They do, however, serve alcohol. You will not experience any performances or related activities during this time either. One must ensure not to play loud music in their home/ room/ car either as this can be frowned upon.

Dubai during Ramadan

Avoid public display of affection

Although they have become a lot more accepting of public display of affection (holding hands, hugging) in recent years, this is unacceptable during the Holy Month. Any gesture that is likely to attract attention in a sexual way is forbidden during this time and you're likely to get told off if you indulge in it.

Be more patient & respectful

Especially towards those who are fasting. It is likely that you might come across people who are snappy or irritable but try and understand what not drinking water or eating food throughout the day must to do them! Try not to get into an unpleasant situation or argument; be the bigger person!

Dubai during Ramadan


Visiting Dubai during Ramadan

Experiences not-to-be-missed

Despite all the rules and 'don'ts', there is a lot that happens in Dubai during Ramadan which does not happen during the rest of the year and it's the best time to enjoy these experiences.

Iftar

This is the fast-breaking meal that Muslims have right after the sunset prayers and many restaurants and hotels across the country put out a big feast, mostly with Arabic food. Dates are usually eaten to break the fast followed by a hearty meal and going for 'Iftars' is not limited only to Muslims. As a visitor to the UAE, you will be amazed to see the spread in most restaurants and the vibe, with people using this opportunity to chit chat, hang around and finally get out of their homes, full of energy. To accommodate the high number of diners, many restaurants put up large air-conditioned tents and a buffet spread with traditional dishes. Not only is this a great opportunity to soak up in a very unique atmosphere but it's also the perfect time to try out authentic Arabic foods such as Malfoof (cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings), lamb ouzi, chicken shish taouk, lamb kofta, and fish harra. Do not miss out on some of the best desserts such as the cheese-based pastry Kunafeh, the Turkish Baklava and the Egyptian bread and butter pudding, Umm Ali.

Some popular Iftars to try out are:

  • The beachside Ramadan tent at Habtoor Grand Resort
  • Kaftan Turkish Cuisine & Fine Art at La Mer with an Ottoman and Turkish Twist
  • The Meydan Ramadan tent with live cooking stations
  • Ninive’s urban majlis at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, with live entertainment from kanun and oud players
  • Asateer Tent at Atlantis the Palm, an elegant and luxurious setting with a widespread buffet
  • Qasr Al Sultan, with traditional Arabic architecture and setting
  • Queen Elizabeth 2, a unique floating iftar on a purpose-built majlis, on a ship's deck
  • Sikka Café, an inexpensive yet fantastic spread of authentic Arabic dishes in a lively part of the city
  • A traditional meal served in the courtyard of a historical architecture building at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Dubai during Ramadan

It might also be a great idea to find an Iftar discount deal on Groupon.

Ramadan Night Market

The perfect way to enjoy a vibrant experience of culture and crowd, the Ramadan Night Market features funky or traditional trinkets, souvenirs, handmade goods, jewelery and fashion wear. Great bargains, a festive atmosphere, delectable foods from around the world, contests to win big prizes and interactive workshops are all reasons to visit this shopping and entertainment extravaganza.

Until 2017, the Ramadan Night Market was held at Za’abeel Hall in the World Trade Centre. However, in 2018 it moved to the Happiness Market located in Zabeel Park. The market usually lasts for about 10 days, closer to the end of the Holy Month. The exact dates and location for 2019 are undecided and will be available here.

Most malls in Dubai during Ramadan also extend their hours and remain open past midnight. You can be assured to experience a very lively atmosphere after sunset, although it remains fairly quiet during the day. Click here to read the extended opening hours of the popular malls in the city.

Dubai during Ramadan

Suhoor

Suhoor is the last meal before the start of the fast and takes place in the early hours of the morning. While most locals are likely to take this meal at home, several restaurants remain open to offer this opportunity to the tourists and visitors. While Iftar is likely to be a heavy meal and thus offered as a buffet in restaurants, Suhoor is usually offered as a la carte. Suhoor typically starts at 9 pm and lasts until late night and the nights come alive with people flocking outdoors to grab a bite or smoke shisha.

Some recommended places to try Suhoor are:

  • Layali Ramadan Tent at Dunes Café in Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road
  • Habtoor Grand Garden Tent with live oud entertainment
  • Seven Sands Restaurant in JBR
  • The courtyard of La Ville Dubai, City Walk

Dubai during Ramadan


Should you visit during Ramadan?

Absolutely, and now that Ramadan is slowly moving closer to the winter months with every passing year, even the weather isn't all that bad! As long as you're willing to follow certain rules, practice patience and aren't too hung up on having to dress conservatively, restrict your eating to indoor spaces during the day and don't mind the clubs and other loud places being shut, you can actually enjoy Dubai in a manner that you cannot during the rest of the year. Shop in malls until late night, smoke shisha and chill until wee hours of the morning, indulge in an Iftar feast every day of the week, benefit from reduced crowds as well as lower prices at most attractions, keep an eye out for crazy offers and discounts, Ramadan is the perfect time to immerse in the culture, interact with the local community, understand the religious practices and experience a unique lifestyle in Dubai.

Dubai during Ramadan

Dubai Parks and Resorts (Motiongate Dubai & Legoland Dubai) have special offers and discounts during Ramadan and as they continue to serve food and drinks in designated areas, it is a great idea to visit these places during the day, when the crowds are minimal and queues almost nil. Other special Ramadan events include Iftar with Cartoon Characters & Super Heroes at IMG Worlds of Adventure, mega sales in the malls and major discounts on entrance tickets for many other entertainment venues.

To summarize:

  • No drinking and eating during the day time in public (with the exception of children, pregnant women and medically unfit persons), although several restaurants and food courts in malls will either allow take away or have a designated dining area for the non-fasters
  • Clubs and entertainment venues remain closed during this time
  • Most bars will open in the evening and will serve alcohol, though they will not play loud music
  • Some bars in hotels also remain open during the day, allowing alcohol to be served in designated areas
  • Although one is expected to dress conservatively, this need not be followed on the poolside areas and beaches
  • Malls are likely to remain open until late night (2 am)
  • Many restaurants remain open until 3 or even 5 am, serving food as well as shisha
  • This is a religious time and although not everyone is expected to fast, one must respect the culture and norms more during this period than any other time of the year
  • It is likely that most taxi drivers will also be fasting, it is sensible and expected from one to be more patient and considerate of those who are as it is not easy to go through the day without food and water
  • Attractions and malls will be a lot less busy during the day so you can benefit from shorter queues. However, after sunset, many people will flock to these places and it can get very crowded then
  • Although you're unlikely to land up in any major trouble like being arrested, it would be sensible to follow the norms and not get reprimanded for it

51 thoughts on “What to expect if you are visiting Dubai during Ramadan”

  1. Thank you so much for going in depth about the things to do and not to do during Ramadan! I’ve always wondered what it would be like to visit a muslim country during the holy month. We were originally going to go to morocco during Ramadan but we’re both a dark-skinned middle eastern couple and we don’t fast so we decided to wait and go another time. Interesting to see the countries are slowly changing to accommodate tourists though!

    1. I can’t say about other Middle Eastern countries but Dubai is surely changing. It has come a really long way in the last 8 years that I’ve been living here.

  2. Wow, I didn’t know 80% of the population is expats, that sounds like a lot. Love that you site what not to do during Ramadan. Sounds like experiencing a Iftars should go on my list!

  3. I haven’t yet been to Dubai, but Raquel visited during Ramadan and wasn’t overly aware of some of the rules or general polite things to do, such as not eating out in daylight, so this article would have been really useful for her. One day I’ll get out there!

  4. This is a very helpful post for anyone travelling to a Muslim-majority country where Ramadan is being observed. It’s important to respect the traditions and act appropriately. I’m sure I would it difficult to fast from sunrise to sundown each day myself. Especially since I love Middle Eastern food!

    1. It is really hard for those who’re fasting and that’s why, even though non-fasting people are allowed to do cetain things the fasting people aren’t, we try to be considerate to them and not drink or eat in their presence.

  5. I was in Dubai last year for Ramadan, this is such a great and comprehensive guide.

    Sadly I didn’t hav the chance to visit the Ramadan night market, it sounds like so much fun.

    It really is a great time to visit Dubai, probably the best time.

    1. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the best time Sara, but it’s not as hard as it used to be. It’s a bit unique as well, quite different from how Dubai usually is.

  6. I love the Middle East, but I don’t know that I’d want to visit during Ramadan. I feel like it would be a bit harder to plan my days around where and when I could. Or I would feel odd if I was going a day tour and I was eating breakfast and lunch knowing the guides couldn’t. It’s a totally different experience, and I do think you miss out on some of the vibrance if you visit during the quiet Ramadan period.

  7. The Ramadan fasting is quite a ritual that it can affect businesses so much during the daytime. I love the idea of lively night markets and the early morning meal. Not drinking water all day long seems like a strain to the body! Thanks for the insights.

    1. It’s true, that’s why we have shorter working hours during this work, especially for those who’re fasting.

  8. This was a very interesting article. I always wondered how Muslims survive by not eating all day, but now I understand that they are up until the early morning hours eating so that they are able to last during the day. Thanks for setting out the rules. I think that will help lots of people out there.

    1. It’s not easy, to survive without any liquids or food for about 14 hours in the day. Thankfully, for them, the working hours are reduced by 2 hours everyday, so that they can go home and take it easy.

  9. Jampacked with knowledge and helpful tips. I always wonder what it would be like to travel through a country during Ramadan – the challenges that come with that! Great post honestly!

  10. Such an informative post. I am aware of Ramadan and always wondered what it was like for businesses during this time of year. I’m not a night person, so I wouldn’t mind missing out on the nightlife 🙂

  11. Thanks for writing this post up. We didn’t had such detailed information and it was quite interesting. It is definitely good to respect the cultures of place especially during festival Ramzaan. After going through your post, we too feel it’s good time to experience Dubai for sure

  12. Having lived my life here, I know that it is not easy for travelers to visit during Ramazan. Given that most places are shut during the day, it really becomes a problem. However, the iftar is amazing, especially when you get down to their feast in the evening.

    1. It seems to be getting better with time. This year, a lot of restaurants and food courts are open during the day, with a little curtain hiding the dining area.

  13. This is a really good guide to ramadan. FOr those visiting Dubai there are some simple steps to take which you have outline here. This is so helpful.

  14. This is a great guide. I think it is so important to be culturally sensitive when visiting another country. You are a visitor in their country so you should be aware of and respectful to the local customs.I have a few friends who celebrate Ramadan, but I was unaware of many of the things you mentioned. Thanks for the helpful post!

  15. I think I would pass on the discounts and visit Dubai outside of Ramadan. With so many things to do, I wouldn’t want to be limited during the daytime hours.

  16. These are very useful tips for visiting UAE in religious Festival time. It’s important to appreciate local culture. Iftar parties are just awesome. Even in Kolkata and Bangalore we look forward to it.

  17. This is such a great guide for those of us coming from Western countries. I didn’t know that chewing gum could cause issues during Ramadaan!

  18. Nice overview of what to expect during Ramadan, especially liked the tip about not eating or drinking in public.I’ve even to Dubai several times but never during Ramadan.

  19. This is such a great guide to visiting Dubai during the Ramadan period. I totally agree about the importance of remaining respectful even during this time of the year, especially when eating during the day and showing public displays of affection. I didn’t know that you couldn’t really play loud music, that’s something new that I have learned. Oh man to experience the iftar dining experiences would be so interesting, and ohhhh and Ramadan markets too! And to also learn about places offering Suhoor is interesting – I am in Malaysia at the moment and I haven’t seen places doing somehting for it. That is really interesting.

    1. That’s interesting, I’m curious to see how different countries/ cities are during Ramadan. Here in Dubai, with places opening for Suhoor until 2 or 3 am, it is quite lively through the night!

  20. Ramadan sounds like an interesting time to visit Dubai. I don’t really drink but the limited places to eat in the day might be a bit of a challenge. Still I think I would visit to see the celebrations and maybe take advantage of some sales.

  21. Looks like visiting Dubai during Ramadan is the best time for me. Not too many people, quieter, and serene. And in the evening you can experience Iftar and night market. What else do you need?

    1. As long as you’re okay with the restriction of not eating or drinking in the open, you’ll be fine!

  22. Very interesting I didn’t know much about Ramadan but had dreamed of visiting Dubai someday. I’ll have to keep this in mind when I plan a trip there someday.

  23. I’ve a few Moroccan friends that observe Ramadan, but have never explained to me these other things! I know about the fasting, but wasn’t aware that pregnant women and children are the exception. It’s useful to know the do’s and dont’s in Dubai. If I ever make it out the airport and visit during this period, I’ll know how to behave.

    1. It’s Ramadan right now here in Dubai. Any plans of stopping by within the next month Lisa? 😉

  24. I’ve read so many posts about Dubai in your blogs especially oh, and I must say that Dubai during Ramadan looks completely different. Still it is not bad for the tourist as he had mentioned for the colder temperatures than other times. That’s would be a major reason for me to plan my Dubai travel during this time. I would make sure that I’m not looking for party life there but more of exploring the place then I do not think visiting Dubai during Ramadan will be a problem.

  25. Very informative post. People planning to visit will benefit immensely. Keep up the good work.

  26. I visited Dubai earlier, but never during Ramadan. Didn’t know about the small parts of restaurants’ indoor seating area where non-Muslims can be served during the holiday. Thought that all the restaurants were closed until the evening.
    Well, I would definitely like to attend one of he Iftars, I heard so much about it. And the way you describe it, it must be a thing to be a part of once in a lifetime. 🙂

  27. Fantastic post and very informative. I dont know with or without Ramadan if I could visit the UAE as the temperatures get stupid high and would prefer to visit in the winter months. 😀 Didnt know about the loud music during Ramadan and the clubs being closed. Learn something new everyday.

    1. If one is looking for great nightlife, music and dancing, then Ramadan isn’t a good time to visit. You’re right about the temperatures being ridiculously high during the summer months, its best to visit between November and April.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *