When it comes to tradition, the UAE is certainly not behind! In fact, many would argue that it's a country that's the most traditional even to this day. Which is ironic, right? Considering that cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are becoming some of the most advanced cities in the world, the country, at large, remains conservative with a strong grip on their traditions. The same goes for its holidays too. Though some of the more universal ones are celebrated here, the UAE's most important holidays remain religious holy days and commemoration for a historic event. Needless to say, you need to be aware of them when you're here.
New Year's Day (January 1)
Even though the UAE, as a largely Islamic country, follows a different calendar, they still actually celebrate New Year's Day on January 1. Just like the other countries such as France
, the US
, and more, the UAE still puts significance to the arrival of the new Gregorian calendar year. You've probably already seen it when news networks show the exciting fireworks display in Dubai. They actually celebrate it as grand and as big as, say the Ball Drop in New York City. Though the holiday has no cultural, religious, or historic significance to the country. They're just joining in on the fun!
Eid Al-Fitr (Every May or June)
While Roman Catholicism has Lent, Islam has Ramadan. This is a whole month of fasting for those in the Islamic faith, done on every ninth month of the Islamic calendar to commemorate Muhammad's first revelation. During this time, Muslims don't just abstain from eating food, but also from undertaking sexual relations and speaking sinfully. It's a time where they simply devote their time to prayer, escaping worldly pleasures, and focusing on the teachings of Islam. And at the end of Ramadan is the holiday known as Eid Al-Fitr. It's a national holiday in the UAE as well as in other Islamic countries.
Islamic New Year (Movable Holiday)
Even though the UAE still celebrates the New Year on the Gregorian calendar, the Islamic New Year remains more significant to the country. Also known as 'Ra's as-Sana al-Hijria
,' it signals the start of a new year in the Islamic calendar. And since this religious calendar is not exactly as fixed as the Gregorian one, this national holiday isn't set on any particular day or month. It's a movable holiday, meaning it can be held on any given day. This year, 2020, it was celebrated in August 2020. And for the next few years, it will remain within July or August.
Mawlid (Movable Holiday)
Mawlid is yet another movable holiday in the UAE. Commemorating the birth of the prophet Muhammad, it's one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar. Held on 12th Rabi' al-awwal on the Islamic calendar, it has no fixed date in the more universally used Gregorian calendar, meaning it can go on any day or month of the year. As it is a national holiday, you can respect that most banks
, government offices and schools in the UAE will remain closed during this day. Even institutions that are founded on different religions, such as Christian schools, Jewish stores, and the like.
Commemoration Day (December 1)
Now, something that's not as religious: Commemoration Day! Held every November 30, this is one national holiday that doesn't have Islamic roots, but many Muslims in the UAE would still pray in the Mosque during this day anyway. Just like 'Veterans' Day' in the US
, Commemoration Day is all about paying tribute and remembering the many people in the UAE armed forces. Those who sacrificed their lives to defend the country, its ideals, and its culture. And since the Middle East has become somewhat of a tumultuous region when it comes to military forces over the years, this holiday has had a whole new meaning!
National Day (December 2 - 3)
And, of course, there's the UAE's National Day too! It's celebrated every December 2 and is one of the most celebratory holidays in all of the country. It commemorates the time that Ra’s al-Khaimah, the seventh emirate, joined the federation back in 1972, further solidifying the country into becoming the superpower that it is now. People here celebrate it in different and exciting ways. Think fireworks displays off of the most iconic monuments in Dubai. Or car rallies along the wide streets of Abu Dhabi. And in the more rural places? Grand performances that show traditional dances of the country!
The UAE may soon be the most modern country in the world but it will also remain one of the most conservative. You'll see it most during the many holidays here, many of which are religious and will have people undertaking various traditions to observe and celebrate them.
During a holiday in the UAE, especially in Dubai, you'd want to stay in a luxury rental
so you can celebrate it big time!