Ramadan celebrations in Dubai

Understanding Ramadan Rules in Dubai as a Tourist [11 March to 9 April 2024]

by Dubai Travel Planner

Q&A Guide for Non-Muslim Visitors to Dubai during Ramadan 2024

One of the significant areas of concern for non-Muslims visiting Dubai during Ramadan is how to behave during the Holy Month.

Whilst the basic cultural behaviours for entering a Muslim country can be easy to grasp, there are a few extra steps that visitors need to take during Ramadan to ensure they are being respectful.

When is Ramadan in Dubai?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar. Following the Hijri calendar, the start date of Ramadan is approximately 10 days earlier each year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2024, Ramadan 1445 will fall over March/April; the moon sighting committee confirms the exact date.  

The Moon Sighting Committee in the UAE have confirmed Ramadan commences 11 March and will likely end 9 April 2024

One of the Five Pillars of Worship of IslamSaum – is the act of fasting during this holy month.  Muslims must abstain from eating and drinking (among other things) between sunrise and sunset to teach themselves self-awareness, patience, and tolerance. The soul is said to be purified of evil influence, and a person’s faith in Allah strengthens.

If you are visiting in future years, this is a good source for finding out when Islamic holidays will fall:


What do non-Muslim tourists & residents need to observe during Ramadan in Dubai?

Non-Muslim expat residents and visitors are responsible for making sure there is a suitable environment for Muslims to observe Ramadan.  Although you are not expected to join in with the fasting, you must show respect to those who are through your conduct.

Eating, drinking and smoking in public by adults during Ramadan is prohibited

HOWEVER, contrary to laws that carry fines of up to 2000 AED for eating in public during Ramadan, general practice in Dubai has significantly changed over the last four years. Eating establishments previously needed special licenses to operate during daylight hours of Ramadan and blacked-out windows.

Dubai Department of Economic Development (Dubai Economy) issued a circular on 11 April 2021 stating that restaurants in the emirate will not have to screen visible dining areas during fasting hours in the Holy Month of Ramadan 1442. This was the case again in 2022 and 2023, so the rule changes look to be permanent, whereby eating in public spaces is no longer prohibited.

You can still obtain food and drink in hotels and shopping centres in Dubai during Ramadan. Walking around eating and drinking in public is socially unacceptable, even if it is no longer illegal. If you are consuming food and drink, stay within designated dining areas.

In the privacy of your own home or hotel rooms, you can do as you please during Ramadan as long as it doesn’t disturb others (i.e. no loud music and blatant partying).

What About Children During Ramadan in Dubai?

Younger children, especially those under six years old, are not expected to participate in fasting, Muslim and Non-Muslim.  Pre-pubescent children between seven and 12 years old may start to observe fasting for short periods at a time. On reaching puberty, participation by all Muslims (some exceptions mentioned below) is required.

Schools in Dubai will start later and finish earlier during Ramadan. Individual schools will advise opening hours but are normally restricted to a maximum of 5-6 hours a day, and extra-curricular activities are often cancelled.

For younger children who attend nursery or playgroups, you should see no change, though hours may be reduced.  You should freely feed a toddler or young children when they are hungry and dress them as appropriate for the weather.

Exceptions to Fasting

There are many circumstances under which a Muslim can be exempted from fasting, including if you are a pregnant woman, diabetic, breastfeeding, menstruating, sick, or of old age. The basic premise is that you should not participate if it’s detrimental to your health.

For a non-Muslim who is a pregnant or breastfeeding, you should still avoid openly eating or drinking in public, likewise for children between six and 12 years. It may be allowed, but even Muslims will do this discreetly and privately – that said, in the past few years, a blind eye seems to have been turned to public eating in Dubai during Ramadan.

If you are travelling through one of the country’s major international airports, you will see full food services operating as travellers are exempt from fasting (Muslims will make up a fasting day while travelling later in the year).

Firing of the canon for breaking of the fast Ramadan Burj Park Dubai
The firing of the cannon to break the Ramadan fast in Burj Park, beneath Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Breaking of the Fast – Iftar in Dubai

The fast is broken at maghrib (the sunset prayer time) by the firing of a cannon. This is followed by the sound of Azan echoing from the loudspeaker of a mosque.

This has been a tradition of Ramadan in Dubai since the 1960s. In Dubai, seven cannons are fired at various locations stationary locations, and this year, they’ve introduced a travelling cannon. Run by Dubai Police, , including Burj Park, Eid prayer grounds in Al Mankhool, Al Baraha at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai City Walk, and Expo City Dubai will also be launching the iconic Iftar Cannon with Dubai Police, taking place nightly.

A great side trip you can take is to see the nightly cannon firing at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – more below!

Iftar is literally the breaking of the fast, the meal taken immediately after sunset. This is a time for families to come together and eat a meal. Usually, a quick snack of water and organic and gourmet dates is taken before prayers, followed by a large meal with traditional delicacies such as harees, lamb ouzi, and mixed grill.  

Many of the hotels in Dubai will put together huge Iftar buffet extravaganzas and traditional tents for Ramadan. These were cancelled and reduced over COVID, but we saw a full return to Ramadan hospitality in 2022. It is an incredibly unique experience to join in with Iftar celebrations.

You’ll find our guide to the best Iftar buffets in Dubai here

A unique experience for tourists to join is the Ramadan Iftar Program, run by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Join your local hosts for Arabic Coffee and dates, enjoy Iftar, and then visit the Diwan Mosque.

Iftar in the desert luxury offering at bab al shams outdoor chefs cooking iftar buffet in dubai
Iftar preparation at Bab al Shams – an idyllic desert setting for a traditional shared meal to break the fast with live cooking stations Ramadan Dubai

When is Iftar in Dubai?

Iftar timing varies by city as it occurs at sunset for that exact location. While the cannon is considered the official time, you can estimate the likely time based on when Maghrib is. (NB Dubai is always 4 minutes earlier than Abu Dhabi as it is further to the east).

Suhoor in Dubai

As the fast begins again at sunrise, Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal taken immediately before sunrise. Again, many hotels will provide suhoor on a grand scale, some starting suhoor offering as soon as iftar is cleared and lasting throughout the night.

You will notice Dubai can become an all-night culture during Ramadan!

Find our selection of the best Dubai suhoor spreads to try this year

Laylatul Qadr

(Also known as Lailat al Qadr) is the Night of Power, when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed by Allah.

The exact date is debated, but it is believed to be an odd date in the last 10 days of Ramadan. For many, prayers intensify in the final 10 days. 27 Ramadan is generally agreed as the night of observation; in 2024, this will be 6 April. It is not a public holiday in the United Arab Emirates, but something for tourists to be mindful of as it’s considered the Holiest of nights during what is already a special month.


Other Things to Be Mindful of during Ramadan in Dubai

Ramadan is not only about the act of fasting; for Muslims, it is also about abstention – including tobacco, sex, music – and tolerance.

  • Appropriate dress standards must be observed in public areas (more stringently enforced than usual).  All grown-ups (including teens) should be dressed conservatively and look to have arms and legs covered in public – and certainly avoid cleavage and tight clothing. This said, just as dining rules have relaxed in recent years, it seems so have clothing rules – don’t be THAT tourist!
  • Hold fire on any public displays of affection, avoid kissing, and even hand-holding between grown-ups (with your child is fine).
  • In that hour or so before sunset and Iftar, the patience of many is strongly tested, and you may experience some erratic driving. Best to steer clear of the roads, and if going for your evening meal, be mindful of letting others who might need it more go before you.
  • It is a time for peace and giving, so try to avoid shouting and anger, and especially no rude words or gestures.
  • Most workplaces will modify working hours throughout the Holy Month to accommodate the needs of those fasting (UAE Government workers may work from home for the first time on Fridays only in 2023 – this could affect services).
  • You may also find shops have very different opening times, with many closed all day and open through most of the night.  Major supermarkets and Malls can even be open 24 hours a day!  You should have no problem finding an open supermarket throughout the day for groceries; you obviously shouldn’t consume anything until you get home.
  • Mosques that are open throughout most of the year for guided tours to non-Muslims may adjust or pause their programs during the Holy Month.
  • Many tourist attractions will adjust their hours too; always check on websites/Facebook pages for changes to business opening hours at this time of year.
  • Attractions such as evening desert safaris will continue to operate, but the entertainment element of their program may be paused or altered over Ramadan.
  • Special events such as Ramadan Night markets and other pop-ups after dark occur during Ramadan, adding to the uniqueness of visiting Dubai at this time of year.

Ramadan Timings in Dubai

Sometimes, key attractions change their opening hours during the Holy Month – though as Ramadan has crept earlier into Spring, we have found fewer attractions are now adjusting opening hours for Ramadan. We are presently aware of these Ramadan hours in 2024.

Transport During Ramadan in Dubai (TBC 2024)

Attraction Timings during Ramadan in Dubai (TBC 2024)

  • Dubai Mall Shops are open Monday to Thursday, 10:00 AM to Midnight; Friday to Sunday, 10:00 AM to 1:00 AM – food establishments will stay open until 2:00 AM
  • Global Village presently advertising normal hours; 4:00 PM to midnight Sunday to Wednesday and 1:00 AM Thu to Sun -TBC if they’ll extend to 2:00 AM
  • Dubai Frame 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
  • Museum of the Future 10:00 AM to 7:30 PM
  • Quranic Park 12:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Cave of Miracles and Glass House close 7:00 PM)
  • Ain Dubai is Temporarily closed still
  • Aquaventure 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Dubai Parks & Resorts Varies by the park – Legoland opens at 10:00 AM and closes 6:00 PM, Motiongate opens at 11:00 AM clsoes 8:00 PM/9:00 PM, and Bollywood from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM/11:00 PM weekends
  • Dubai Safari Park Day session 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM (it doesn’t look like they’re doing the late-night sessions in 2023)

NB – if you’ve not visited Dubai for a few years, take note that the weekend has changed; Dubai now operates a 4.5-day week from Friday afternoon to Sunday.

Visiting the Grand Mosque during Ramadan

If you were planning a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi as a day trip from Dubai, the good news is that the Grand Mosque will remain open daily throughout Ramadan for non-Muslim visitors. There will be a 3.5-hour window in the evening when it is closed while Iftar is observed.

We have a complete guide over here on our Abu Dhabi partner website on how to visit the Grand Mosque during Ramadan.

Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi lit up at night
A visit to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan in the UAE will truly enhance your experience.

Eid in Dubai Explained

To prevent any confusion, there are two Eid celebrations, which you will find marked by Muslim countries worldwide.

Eid al-Fitr in Dubai

Eid al fitr is the festival of the breaking of the fast, occurring immediately after Ramadan.

It is a time of festivities and daytime feasts for Muslim families, also when people will dress in their new Eid clothes, ladies will have their hair and henna done and gift-giving occurs among other celebrations.

It is a very busy time in Dubai and also a national holiday – usually lasting three to four days, but for Government agencies and schools, this may be extended to a week.

Eid al-Fitr in 2024 will be announced towards the end of Ramadan, you should expect the holiday dates to fall around 9 to 12 April 2024.

These are usually declared after the official start of Ramadan, although Eid itself is still subject to moon sighting. The first sighting of the crescent moon marks 1 Shawwal.

Charity or Zakat – another of the Five Pillars of Islam – is considered very important during Eid celebrations, giving and thoughtfulness to those less fortunate.  You may see a number of white tents popping up all over town even before Ramadan starts, these are for making donations to the needy – it can be a good way to get your children involved in Ramadan and understand the importance of giving.

Ramadan Dubai traditions for breaking the fast

Eid al-Adha in Dubai

“The festival of the sacrifice” occurs approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan. Arafat Day falls first, on the second day of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca –  the 9th Day of Dhu Al Hijja on the Hijri calendar.

Eid al-Adha immediately follows this. Animals such as sheep or goats are sacrificed, and tradition dictates a third is eaten by the family, a third is given to relatives and friends, and a third is given to the needy.

This is another three to four-day public holiday though can be extended to a week also for Government departments and schools (always announced very last minute)

Arafat day in Dubai is due to occur on 15 June 2024 and Eid al-Adha 16 to 18 June2024, subject to moonsighting


Should I Visit Dubai during Ramadan?

Many visitors unfamiliar with Islamic culture are understandably nervous when they work out they will be visiting Dubai country during Ramadan. Is there anything you really should worry about?

We’ll take you through some of the questions we have received over the years to put your mind at ease:

Can I eat as a non-Muslim during Ramadan in Dubai?

Yes and No! As we explained above, you should not eat in public places or in front of those who are fasting out of respect.

The rules around this in Dubai are significantly changing, whereby more cafes and restaurants ARE open in Dubai during Ramadan, but it is still respectful to remain discreet. Certainly, no daytime eating while walking along the street or in a car; even if you’re unlikely to be fined, it’s socially unacceptable.

Can I not even drink water during Ramadan in Dubai?

It is true that Muslims refrain from even drinking water; however, as a tourist, you can do so discreetly. You can drink with a meal in a designated restaurant, or during the day, nipping into a bathroom or anywhere not in the public eye, you can steal a sip.

Within the confines of a resort, it is now permissible to drink poolside (just use your discretion in the company of others who may be fasting).

What should I wear in Dubai during Ramadan?

There is a slightly higher standard of dress expected of tourists during Ramadan. While we talk about shorts and t-shirts being fine for most of the year in our dress code advice here, during Ramadan extra effort to cover shoulders and knees should be made.

You will, unfortunately, find so many who now flaut these guidelines.

If you are staying at a Dubai resort, you will have no issue wearing your swimwear in the appropriate parts of the hotel as you would year-round.

Can a non-Muslim attend Iftar?

Yes, non-Muslims are very welcome to attend an Iftar and enjoy the experience. You should dress respectfully for the occasion and be mindful to let those who have been fasting all day go first.

You can have Iftar anywhere in Dubai, however, if you’d like to understand more about the occasion, we strongly recommend you book and pay for an evening with SMCCU.

Can tourists drink alcohol during Ramadan in Dubai?

Another area that has evolved over the years. Non-Muslim tourists are allowed to drink in Dubai as we discuss here. However, it can be a little different during Ramadan. Serving alcohol, especially during the day, used to be strictly taboo, with service only starting after the sun sets, if at all.

This has changed in recent years and it seems you can still continue to be served alcohol at many venues throughout the Holy Month just as you would any other time of year.

Most restaurants and Ramadan tents will NOT serve alcohol WITH Iftar, but it’s variable. If they advertise “hops & grapes” or similar wording, then it means alcohol IS included.

Travelling through the airport, alcohol used to NOT be served during the day in DXB, but we found it WAS allowed in 2021 and has been allowed ever since.

Is it even worth coming if tourist attractions will be closed?

Contrary to popular belief, most attractions in Dubai WILL remain open throughout Ramadan, especially those catering to tourists, including the theme parks, Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and museums.

You may observe a slower pace of life, and life in Dubai tends to move to late nights.

There may be variations in opening hours (many extending until much later into the evening), and it can be quieter than other times of the year, which can certainly work to your advantage (given dates fall over the Northern Hemisphere spring break, this is no longer the case; in fact, March/April remains one of the busiest times to visit Dubai, despite the Holy Month and fasting).

What is the appropriate greeting to use during Ramadan?

“Ramadan Kareem” is the polite greeting to use, and during Eid, “Eid Mubarak”.

Is Ramzan in Dubai the same as Ramadan?

Yes, Ramzan and Ramadan are the same thing, just written differently depending on what part of the world you come from; many from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan still use Ramzan in written format, but you’d be perfectly understood if asking about Ramzan that you are referring to Ramadan.

Are there any other great reasons to visit Dubai during Ramadan?

During Ramadan, you may find cheaper flight and accommodation packages than at other times of the year. However, now that Ramadan is in March/April and the peak tourism season for the UAE, this is no longer the case!

You will likely now find better deals to come to the UAE AFTER Ramadan and Eid when it’s starting to get hot in late May/June.

It is also an incredibly joyful time of year. The city comes alive in the evenings, and it truly is a time of happiness and celebration for Muslims. Without a doubt, these days, it’s not a disadvantage to visit Dubai during Ramadan; in fact, it can be one of the greatest times for a cultural and beachy holiday all in one.

What about Easter falling during Ramadan in Dubai this year?

The two important religious occasions will overlap in dates over the next few days, as we explain over here in our Easter guide to Dubai.

This will not prevent Christians from observing the occasion, and we are advised Easter brunches will go ahead in March 2024, as they did in April 2023.


Final Thoughts on Ramadan in Dubai

Remember to park any opinions you may have about whether it is “right” or “healthy” or any other beliefs contrary to the Pillars of Islam; whether you are a visitor or an expatriate resident, you are a guest in the country, and these are the rules and local customs that must be observed.

More cultural experiences in Dubai and frequently asked tourist questions:

  • How to visit a Dubai Mosque – which ones are open to the public, and how can you gain a greater understanding of Islamic culture when you visit Dubai?

You can learn more about the best time to visit Dubai, and what to expect during the different times of year here.


Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai

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2 comments

Rafael March 23, 2023 - 11:39 am

Very informative, very helpful. You got a subscriber! If I am not mistaken, I believe the operating hours for the Frame during Ramadan is from 11am – 7pm, not 9am – 9pm. Thank you very much for sharing all the info

Reply
Dubai Travel Planner March 28, 2023 - 7:48 am

We’ll get that checked out; sometimes the venues haven’t updated their hours when we’re reviewing the articles for accuracy.

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