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Just booked a cheeky trip to Dubai or had it marked on your calendar for months now, only to realise you’ll be in town during Ramadan? Worried it might affect your trip? We’re swinging by with all the answers to all your burning questions, from Can I eat and drink during the day? to Can I still wear my budgie smugglers? Well, not the last one, actually. But the answer is no, if you’re curious. And that goes for any destination…

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a pretty important month for Muslims. In fact, it’s their holiest month. The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, to be exact. It commemorates the month during which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

During this period of spiritual reflection, Muslims around the world abstain from things like smoking and sinful behaviour whilst increasing their reading of the Quran, acts of charity, and prayer. But the big thing most people know about when it comes to Ramadan is the fasting.

Yep, during Ramadan, Muslims do not consume food or drink water from dawn until sunset, when – in Dubai – cannons ring out, followed by the call to prayer, Maghrib. The breaking of the fast is known as iftar, which traditionally involves eating dates with water, followed by a large spread of food eaten with friends and family.

The end of Ramadan is marked by the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, but because it falls on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, the exact dates of Ramadan vary each year. That means you might just find yourself in the city during this period without realising it.

When is Ramadan celebrated this year?

Determined by religious authorities who get their fancy telescopes out, or sometimes use just their naked eye, to spot the first sighting of a crescent moon, this year Ramadan is set to begin on the 10th of March 2024. The Holy Month will then last for the next 29 or 30 days.

This year actually marks the first time that Ramadan will take place during the winter season in the UAE since 2000!

Should I visit Dubai during Ramadan?

The short answer? Yes! Any trip to Dubai will not be drastically changed if it happens to fall during Ramadan. There’s some things you can do to be extra respectful to those observing it during your trip, and you might have to make a few minor adjustments to your activities – shopping, for example – to accommodate changes to opening and closing hours (we’ll get into this more below!), but overall, your trip will be just as good as any other time of year.

Actually, we’d go so far as to say you’re pretty lucky to be in the city during Ramadan, because you’ll get to experience it like no other time of year – especially at night, when the fast is broken and everyone gets together to enjoy iftar. There’s nothing quite like that kinda atmosphere. Plus, with Ramadan falling during the UAE’s winter months this year, it’s an even better time to be in town because you won’t be battling the mega high temps of summer – even the locals struggle with this, especially when fasting.

Can you drink alcohol in Dubai during Ramadan?

Dubai already has fairly strict laws when it comes to alcohol – you can only buy it from certain licensed locations across the city, and these are usually the bars that form part of your hotel. It’s also a big no-no to drink, and especially to be drunk, in public here. Like, a get-arrested-kinda-no-no.

In the past, these rules were even stricter during Ramadan, with restrictions often meaning no alcohol at all could be served until after dark – not so anymore. Over the years the rules have been relaxed to allow the purchase of alcohol throughout the day during Ramadan, although individual bars may choose to open and close at certain times of the day – so it’s always best to give them a quick Google beforehand.

You won’t have to drink in specially designated areas – often behind screens – like you used to before either, but you won’t be able to drink outside unless at your hotel or resort. Drinking – alcohol or not – and eating in public is not allowed during fasting hours, and will get you fined if spotted.

Are restaurants open during Ramadan?

Fear not, you ain’t gonna starve if you visit during Ramadan in Dubai. Plenty of dining options remain open throughout the city during the day time, especially those inside of shopping centres (of which there are many) and hotels. And as with drinking alcohol, you no longer have to eat behind a screen, but you won’t be able to dine outside.

One thing to make a note of, however, is that some restaurants may alter their opening and closing times to accommodate suhoor and iftar, so keep an eye on Google and their socials. And don’t forget that you’re more than welcome to dine with those observing the fast as well – quite a lot of restaurants (and hotels too) put on special, and pretty extravagant, iftar spreads that everyone is free to join whether they’re fasting or not, and is a mega way to really get a feel for the local culture.

The really important thing to remember though is that you won’t be able to eat or drink when out and about in public spaces at all during daylight hours, and this can be tricky to manage if the temperatures are particularly high. If you need some water, you’ll have to nip into a private place and neck a load before heading back out. If you’re spotted having a sneaky snack, you could get fined.

Maybe don’t risk it for a biscuit this time?

Are shops open in Dubai during Ramadan?

When it comes to the heavy hitters like shopping centres, you can expect them to open at their usual hour when it comes to Ramadan in Dubai, but one thing that will change is their closing hours. To accommodate iftar activities, and just the general later hours of most people who observe during the month of Ramadan, most shopping centres will extend their closing time into the wee hours, some staying open as late as 1am – their food courts often stay open even later!

But you’ll need to be a bit more on your toes when it comes to non-chain stores and other, family-run business. These will most likely open later and then close in the early afternoon, before reopening again after sundown. Some may not open at all during daylight hours. Especially bear this in mind when hitting up the souks – they’ll be open during the day, but the atmosphere will be much more subdued and the sellers won’t be at their chirpiest – they’re fasting, after all! You’re better off coming back after sundown – it’ll be cooler, the atmosphere will be better, and everyone will generally be way more cheerful.

Are beach clubs open in Dubai during Ramadan?

A lot of beach clubs, especially in recent years, choose to remain open during Ramadan in Dubai. Some may alter their hours, as well as restricting their offerings too. For example, some will keep their bar and restaurant open, but they’ll keep the beach closed. Others may serve alcohol during the day in designated areas, and other will refrain from doing so until after dark.

One thing that all beach clubs will be though, is a bit more on the subdued side than you might be used to – that’s because, generally speaking, no live music can be performed during Ramadan, and even then any background music will be more muted than usual.

That being said, if you fancy getting in some beach time whilst in the city, your best bet is still probably heading to a beach club as opposed to one of the public beaches – this is because Ramadan usually falls during the summer months, making the waters of the Gulf pretty hot and the temperature outside the water even hotter. At public beaches you’ll be unable to eat or drink (if you want to remain respectful), but if you opt for a beach club you’ll have access to their facilities, as well as being able to have something to eat and drink in their designated areas, as long as it’s not alcohol you’re after.

Events in Dubai for Ramadan 2024

Alongside the usual souks, during Ramadan in Dubai a whole bunch of special markets appear in the run up to and during the Holy Month, family-friendly events that are another great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine whilst you’re in town.

Hai Ramadan

One of the biggest celebrations in the city, Hai Ramadan will once again be hosted at Expo City this year. There’ll be more than 20 stalls here for those breaking the fast, as well as a bunch of handmade crafts and garments for you to rummage through. Iftars and suhoors will be held throughout the night.

Ramadan Souq

Over in the historic Bur Deira area, this market will have live entertainment as well as activities for kids, food too – all with a focus on the city’s heritage.

The Ramadan District

Another big one, this market on the Plaza Terrace at Jumeirah Emirates Towers will have classic entertainment like board games, arts and crafts like henna and calligraphy, and even cooking classes throughout the night. You’ll also spot a bit of an international presence here, with brands like Maybelline New York featuring alongside local businesses.

This way for flights to Dubai 

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