The UAE is a very religious country and most of the state holidays and important dates here are Islamic, the exact dates of which are determined according to the Islamic Hijri lunar calendar. However, not every holiday is a day off — the government of each emirate annually approves a schedule of such dates based on the socio-economic situation. In this article we have taken a look at when public and national holidays take place in the UAE for the period of 2023-2024.
Celebrating holidays in the UAE calendar
To restore the economy after the consequences of the pandemic in 2020, the country's leadership decided to reduce the public holidays in 2023-2024. On the official government website, you can find the calendar of celebrations for the next 2 years.
Most of the holidays in the UAE are Islamic, since religion is a fundamental part of everyday life. Hijri is the Muslim (Islamic or Arabic) calendar, which determines the celebration of the annual fasting period and the exact timing for the Hajj. According to the Islamic calendar, the New Year begins on the first day of the Hajra, on which the Prophet Muhammad, along with the first followers, left Mecca, fleeing the persecution of the pagans in 622 AD.
A year in the Islamic calendar consists of 12 months and contains either 354 or 355 days. The length of the year for the Islamic calendar is 10 or 11 days less than the solar year, so its months are shifted towards the beginning of the year. The difference between the Muslim calendar and the Gregorian calendar is the beginning of the calculation of the new day. If in the Gregorian calendar the conditional time is taken as the beginning of a new day - midnight, then for Muslims a new day begins at sunset. Not all holidays in the UAE are declared holidays and the list of holidays changes every year. All holidays that fall on a Friday or Saturday are transferred to weekdays, and for the employees of both public and private companies the number of official holidays in 2023-2024 is the same.
Official holidays in the UAE in 2023-2024
In addition to religious holidays, UAE residents celebrate secular holidays. These are three celebrated holidays that are important to every resident of the Emirates: Gregorian New Year — January 1, State Formation Day — December 2 and Accession to the throne of Sheikh Zayed — 6 August. As for religious Muslim holidays, according to the lunar calendar, the dates change every year.
Below we will look at all the important dates of official holidays for all locals and residents in the country.
UAE Flag Day celebration
On November 3, at 11 am, all citizens and residents of the UAE celebrate Flag Day. This holiday is celebrated by schools, government agencies, businesses and individuals who put the UAE flag outside their homes and workplaces, and flag-raising ceremonies are held to celebrate this event, during which the national anthem is played. It is noteworthy that the date appointed for the celebration has nothing to do with the flag of the Emirates. The idea of celebrating Flag Day, which was first celebrated in 2013, belongs to the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. This holiday is timed to coincide with the inauguration of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan as President of the UAE in 2004 and is celebrated annually on November 3, but it is not officially a public holiday.
Until 2019, the holiday was held on November 30, but later the date was moved to December 1. It is the "youngest" national holiday of the UAE as it was only established in 2015 and is an official holiday. The day is dedicated to all residents of the Emirates, in recognition of the sacrifices of Emirati martyrs who gave their lives both in the UAE and abroad in civil, military and humanitarian service.
It is worth noting that the UAE has not been involved in major bloody conflicts as the total number of deceased Emirati military personnel does not exceed a hundred people. In Abu Dhabi, next to the Sheikh Zayd Mosque, there is a memorial which is carved with the names of all the serving soldiers who sadly lost their lives.
As a sign of mourning, state flags are lowered throughout the Emirates from 8:00 to 11:00 am each year on December 1, with a moment of silence and the singing of the UAE anthem takes place at 11:30am.
UAE National Day
This is another official holiday celebrated throughout the UAE, with two days off, December 2 and 3. The UAE National Day marks the establishment of the United Arab Emirates as a coherent state. On December 2, 1971, a unification treaty was signed between the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain and Fujairah, led by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the state. In 1972, another emirate, Ras al-Khaimah, joined them as well.
The celebration includes events such as fireworks, car rallies, dance shows and sporting events. Residents try to dress up in the colours of the flag as well as decorate their own homes, workplaces and streets with themed decorations.
Gregorian New year
New Year's Day — January 1 is a public holiday, but New Year's eve is just a normal working day. There is only one day off in the UAE to celebrate the New Year — 1st of January, and from January 2 the country gets back to normal work, unless this day luckily coincides with a Friday or Saturday when there is a weekend in the country.
It is worth noting that on the eve of the New Year, various promotions and discounts in stores begin to operate. The biggest celebration of the holiday is in Dubai, especially in areas such as Downtown Dubai and the Palm Jumeirah. Here there is an incredible world famous firework show, and more recently a laser show from the top of the Burj Khalifa.
Celebrations in other emirates are much more modest: Abu Dhabi has fireworks on the Corniche and Yas Island promenade, and Sharjah has fireworks on the Al Majaz promenade.
This is a time of spiritual cleansing and virtue and the main religious holiday for Muslims. During this period, believers devote themselves to prayer and spend time with family and loved ones. Ramadan begins in the ninth month of the Islamic year with the appearance of a new moon (according to the traditional Muslim calendar) and lasts for about 30 days until the next new moon arrives. Ramadan ends with the holiday of breaking the fast, Eid al-Fitr. The celebration of the Holy Month in different countries has its own variations, but some things remain common - fasting from sunrise to sunset, prayer, participation in charity and helping all those in need.
For tourists, Ramadan is not the easiest time to be in the country. Foreigners are not required to fast all day, but out of respect, they are obliged to abstain from eating and drinking in public places. During this time many cafes, restaurants and stores close during the day due to low numbers of diners throughout this period.
It is worth noting that in 2021 to make the stay of tourists in the emirate during Ramadan more comfortable, the Dubai government has adopted a number of indulgences, including the possibility of eating in catering establishments during the day without the mandatory privacy screening. In most cases, all the restrictions imposed during Ramadan also do not apply to foreigners in hotels and resorts. In 2021 the month of Ramadan was from April 11 to May 13. In 2022, it is predicted to be between April 2 and May 2.
This holiday, also called the Feast of Breaking the Fast, Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world to mark the end of the Holy Fast of Ramadan. The occasion is celebrated on the first day of the month of Shawwal. In 2023 Eid Al Fitr will be on April 20–23. In 2024, it is predicted to be held on April 9–12.
After the festive prayer, mass festivities with treats and gifts are held throughout the Emirates. At this time, it is customary to wear your best clothes and prepare traditional treats to share with family and friends. During the next two days, shows, dance performances and other events are held throughout the Emirates.
Charity is another essential attribute of Eid Al Fitr. On this day, believers help those in need and collect donations in the form of food and money.
Note: Eid Al Fitr is a good time to visit Dubai as both believers and tourists can take part in the celebration. In honor of the holiday, many stores and entertainment venues arrange discounts and promotions for shoppers and visitors.
Day of Arafah
This is the holiest day in the Islamic calendar (the holiest night being The Night of Power), the second day of the Hajj pilgrimage, and the day after is the first day of the major Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha. On this day, Hajj participants visit Mount Arafat in Mecca and perform namaz at its foot. Mass festivities are not organized on this day as a sign of respect.
The celebration date of Arafah day in 2023 will be June 27, in 2024 it will be celebrated on June 15 according to the Gregorian calendar.
Eid Al Adha
This is the holiday of sacrifice and is one of the main Muslim holidays throughout the year. On this day believers sacrifice animals in memory of the prophet Ibrahim who was ready to sacrifice his son Ismail to Allah. In 2023, Eid al-Adha will be celebrated from Wednesday, June 28 to Friday, June 30, on the 10th day of the month of Zul-Hijjah.
Traditionally, on this day it is customary to sacrifice an animal (ram, goat, camel, or cow). One-third of the meat can be kept for yourself, one-third for your family and the remaining one-third to be donated to the poor. In the UAE, it is forbidden to hold such events in public places due to sanitary regulations. Most often, the animal is slaughtered and butchered at the slaughterhouse. During this holiday, there are mass events, children's parties and fireworks.
These days Muslims visit the graves of their ancestors. The dates of the Eid Al-Adha celebration in 2024 will be from June 16–18. For four whole days, Arafah Day (one day) and Eid al-Adha (three days) there will be days off for the public.
Muslim New Year
Muslim (Islamic New Year) is the day of the beginning of the year according to the Islamic calendar, which is the first day of the month of Muharram. There are no specific ways to celebrate it, however in contrast to Christian countries, in most Islamic countries the change of the year is not considered a holiday, as this day in mosques they only read a sermon about the Hijra. It is believed that the New Year is not a reason for mass festivities, but this is the time when every respectable Muslim analyzes their past year in terms of the deeds they have committed. The first day of the New Year is crowned with the beginning of fasting - a time for abstaining from bad thoughts, quarrels and committing sins, and a time when not only the body is cleansed, but also the thoughts. The date for celebrating the New Year in 2023 according to the Gregorian calendar is July 21, and in 2024 — July 7.
Prophet Muhammad’s birthday or Mawlid
In the UAE, this day is much calmer than in other countries. But meetings in mosques, congresses of Muslims and family gatherings also take place here. Many believers traditionally observe fasting and spend the whole night in prayer. Liberal Muslims celebrate Mawlid in the same way as a traditional birthday as they congratulate each other and give gifts. On this day, scarlet roses are traditionally given to each other, symbolizing love for the Prophet Muhammad and Allah.
In 2023, Mawlid will fall on September 29, in 2024 it will fall on September 15.
Isra and Miraj (Al-Isra wa al-Mi'raj)
Al-Isra and Miraj is an Islamic holiday commemorating two miracles that happened to the Prophet Muhammad. It is believed that on this night the angel Jibril and his winged animal Burak carried the Prophet to Jerusalem, after which Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Important! No celebration of Isra and Miraj in Dubai is provided. Some believers prefer to spend this day praying and reading the Koran, and some even fast for the day.
There are also no events or celebrations for tourists either. On the contrary, many stores and restaurants are either closed or work shorter hours on this day. From sunset until the next morning no alcohol is sold (most hotels and resorts for foreigners are not subject to this rule).
Isra and Miraj is celebrated on the night between the 26 and 27 days of the month of Rajab. In 2023 this will fall on February 18, and in 2024 — February 7. The holiday will begin just after sunset.
Public and school holidays
In the United Arab Emirates, not all holidays are considered days off. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved the official holiday calendar for public and private sector employees for 2023 and 2024.
Public Holidays in 2023
January 1: New Year
April 20–23: Eid al Fitr
June 27: Arafah Day
June 28–30: Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice
July 21: Islamic New Year
September 29: Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
December 1: Commemoration Day
December 2 and 3: UAE National Day
Public holidays in 2024
With shifting, according to the lunar calendar, dates of religious holidays, the exact numbers of which will still be clarified around the time of the holiday itself:
January 1: New Year
April 9–12: Eid al-Fitr
June 15: Arafah Day
June 16–18: Eid al-Adha
July 7: Islamic New Year
September 15: Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
December 1: Commemoration Day
December 2 and 3: UAE National Day
School calendar for 2023-2024
School calendar for 2022-2023:
August 29, 2022 — start of the academic year
December 12, 2022 — January 1, 2023 — Winter vacation
March 27 - April 14, 2023 — Spring vacation
Summer vacation must last no more than 8.2 weeks
School calendar for 2023-2024:
August 30, 2023 — beginning of the school year
December 11, 2023 — January 1, 2024 — Winter vacation
March 25 — April 12 2024 — Spring vacation
Other popular non-Muslim holidays
What other holidays are celebrated in the UAE besides religious and national ones? Women's Day, Valentine's Day, St. Peter's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving are also widely known and popular in the UAE, because the majority of the population are expats from other countries. But it should be noted that these holidays are not accompanied by days off.
International Women's Day
For several days, ministers, Sheiks, high-ranking officials and all residents of this multinational country congratulate the beautiful female half of humanity, admire female beauty, abilities and give thanks to the women in their lives. For example, in Dubai, this holiday was held on a large scale - the celebration lasted for two days, with flowers, chic dresses, all kinds of females led shows and fashion shows.
Saint Valentine’s Day
In the UAE, February 14 is not considered an official holiday, but it is one of the most popular, along with New Year and Christmas. Many hotels and restaurants on this day offer romantic dinners, breakfasts, brunches and sea cruises with exquisite menus and floral decoration. Streets, houses and other places are decorated with flowers, balloons and other valentines themed decorations.
The UAE is a very tolerant country towards other religions and cultures, where people of all faiths live peacefully. Despite the fact that this is a Muslim country, people here are always happy about this Catholic holiday as you can see Christmas decorations everywhere. Shopping malls, five-star hotels and restaurants spare no cost for tinsel, chic Christmas trees and garlands. Christmas in the Emirates is all about beautiful sparkling streets with colourful garlands, Santa Clauses, deer and festive activities. Enchanting shows, unsurpassed fireworks, all kinds of holiday treats, unforgettable concerts of world stars and much more awaits you for Christmas in the UAE.
Bright Easter eggs and chocolate Easter bunnies can be found everywhere on this day. For many families with children, celebrating Easter is a great activity in which both very young and older children, along with their parents, want to participate in. Children love this festival as there are many activities involving eating chocolate on offer everywhere. You can go to any of the restaurants or cafes to enjoy a sumptuous Easter lunch or dinner and you can also visit various markets and shopping centers to buy Easter gifts, postcards and sweets. The children's area in some malls offers a variety of activities such as making Easter cards, decorating Easter eggs and painting ceramics, etc.
Saint Patrick’s Day
23 UAE landmarks turn green in honour of St. Patrick's Day. The Burj Al Arab, University of Abu Dhabi, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Creek and Yacht Club, Dubai International Airport and other buildings change their colour to emerald. On this day, March 17, the doors of the best restaurants and establishments in Dubai are open to celebrate this day of recognition: JBR Black Tap and Jumeirah Al Naseem, Blacksmith Bar & Eatery, the popular Club Vista Mare Palm Bay bar as well as many others. On this holiday Traditional Irish cuisine is presented here with a variety of drinks and other dishes.
Islamic holidays are religious holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world annually according to the lunar Islamic calendar.
The days of Muslim religious holidays each year are shifted in relation to the Gregorian calendar.
The days off in the UAE are Friday and Saturday, which are considered their weekend.
December 2 is UAE National Day. In 2024 this will be the country’s 53rd anniversary.
In the United Arab Emirates, not all holidays are considered days off. Holiday dates are changed annually by the government.
Schools, kindergartens and municipal institutions do not work during public holidays.
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