There is a common misconception that holidays to Dubai and other Muslim countries are off limits during Ramadan. But that’s not the case.
The holy month is a wonderful time to visit Dubai, and this world-famous tourism hotspot welcomes holidaymakers with open arms.
We’ve penned a factual guide to Ramadan to allay any fears you may have about visiting the Middle East during this time. Hopefully we’ll debunk some of the myths and urban legends that crop up in travel forums.
If you’ve already booked your Dubai holiday without realising it coincides with Ramadan 2017, fear not; we guarantee you’ll still have the time of your life.
Ramadan takes place in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It’s the time that Muslims believe that God (Allah) revealed the Koran (the Islamic holy book) to the Prophet Muhammad.
In 2017, Ramadan will take place from May 27th and will last for 30 days. During this time Muslims observing Ramadan fast during daylight hours.
The idea is to reach a heightened sense of spirituality and feel closer to God, hence why Muslims take Ramadan very seriously.
To mark the end of a month of sacrifices, Muslims then celebrate Eid. Fantastic parties, colourful parades and breathtaking firework displays are just a few things we love about the festival of Eid.
Arabic is a complex language and to become fluent would take many, many years of practice. But there are a few easy phrases you can learn beforehand to help you during your time in Dubai.
Why not try and impress with a few of these simple greetings?
“Ramadan Mubarak” OR “Blessed Ramadan” – Rah-mah-dan Moo-Ba-Rak
“Ramadan Kareem” OR “Noble Ramdan” – Rah-mah-dan Kah-reem
“As-salamu alaykum” (Ahs-sah-lam-oo ah-lay-kum) is a typical Muslim greeting, in which you can reply “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” (Wah-ah-lay-kum-sa-lam).
Muslims follow strict rules and make very difficult sacrifices during Ramadan. The authorities are sympathetic toward non-Muslims. That said, it’s polite to adhere to local customs whenever possible.
Don’t worry, drinking water in the street won’t land you in a Dubai prison. This is just one of the many urban legends that drift around the web, often from people who have never been here.
The main rules Muslims must obey during Ramadan are:
Another tip: try to dress conservatively and cover up where possible. This is especially important if you are visiting a mosque or a religious monument.
You won’t be expected to cover up from head to toe at Dubai’s waterparks, but choosing a more modest bathing suit over a bikini is a polite way of respecting Ramadan.
The only minor downside to holidaying during Ramadan is the “no eating or drinking by the pool” policy. Instead, most resorts will have a separate lounge where you can enjoy a meal.
However, every resort is different and some may be more relaxed than others.
If you’re worried about not being able to enjoy a cocktail during your time in Dubai, check with the hotel and ask about their alcohol policy before making your booking.
Some resorts and bars may still serve alcohol to non-Muslims, but you may have to wait until later in the day.
In terms of eating out, many restaurants and cafes stay open during Ramadan. The hotel will be able to recommend the best places to dine.
Most nightclubs stay closed during Ramadan, so if you’re hoping to stay out all night partying, you may want to opt for the high season or plan your trip to coincide with Eid (see below).
Iftar is the name given to the meal Muslims enjoy after sunset.
Many grand resorts host fabulous feasts and invite all guests to join in with the festivities. If you fancy yourself as a foodie you may well be in your element.
Head to an Iftar banquet for tantalising dishes and meze from all over the Middle East, including hummus, spicy lamb kofta kebabs, falafel, halloumi and shawarma.
As for dessert, be sure to save room for baklava. The sweet and sticky treat is a Middle Eastern favourite, made of filo pastry, syrup and chopped nuts.
Much like New York, Dubai is a city that never sleeps.
Most tourist attractions stay open throughout Ramadan, including the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab, the Wild Wadi Waterpark, Aquaventure Waterpark and the Mall of the Emirates.
As for transport, travel services do run but often operate on an alternative timetable. For instance the monorail may start its service a little later or finish earlier.
If you’re still unsure about taking a holiday to Dubai during Ramadan, here are five reasons to do so:
1. Middle Eastern cuisine and grand evening banquets
Dubai comes alive when the sun sets! Expect a grand feast fit for a sultan at one of the many Iftar banquets held in Dubai’s many luxury resorts.
2. Fantastic value for money
Ramadan is one of the most cost-effective times of year to visit Dubai. Flight and hotel prices are often very low.
3. You can discover a more traditional Dubai and delve deep into the culture
Why not embark on your own spiritual journey? While nobody expects you to fast, you may find peace and enlightenment by observing Dubai’s Muslim residents.
4. Eid celebrations
Time your holiday to coincide with the tail end of Ramadan to experience Dubai’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations.
Eid marks the end of Ramadan and the breaking of the fast, meaning spectacular fireworks, parties and parades. The festival of Eid can sometimes last for days!
5. Guaranteed hot weather
Sun worshippers will want to flock to Dubai during Ramadan.
Ramadan 2017 lands at the start of summer, meaning the heat will easily reach the mid to high thirties. However, take every necessary step to protect yourself from heatstroke and sunburn by staying hydrated and applying a higher factor of sun cream.
For more information, or to see a selection of luxury holidays to the Middle East, check out our Dubai holiday guide.