Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims all over the world. The exact timing changes from year to year and in 2021 the holy month will be from mid April to mid May. The exact timing is based on the sightings of the new crescent moon, which marks the beginning of the Ramadan. Most non-Muslims probably associate Ramadan with fasting, but the holy month is also the season for internal reflections, religious immersion and acts of charity and generosity.
Should you visit Dubai during Ramadan?
Considering that I usually travel out of Dubai for most of the holy month, it might not sound too convincing, if I told you that I think you should go. Though, my main reason for leaving Dubai during Ramadan is not solely due to Ramadan itself, but more the fact that Ramadan in recent years have been during the hot summer months. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to visit Dubai during the summer, Ramadan or not, as the heat is unbearable.
Though with Ramadan in early summer, it should not hold you back from visiting Dubai, and here is my advice on how to get the most out of your stay.
Non-Muslims are not required to fast, but from sunrise to sunset, no eating or drinking is allowed in public, and this also applies to non-Muslims. When I first moved to Dubai, all restaurants and cafes were closed during daytime, but in recent years, most of them are open, but hidden behind curtains or screens, so dining out won’t offend fasting individuals passing by.
Regarding fasting, an exception is made for pregnant women, young children, and people with medical conditions, who are all allowed to eat and drink in public, but this should be done discreetly. Travelers are also exempted from the rules, so if you are in transit in Dubai airport, fear not, as all restaurants and even duty free shops are open.
Nightlife during Ramadan
The nightlife used to be more or less dead during Ramadan, but the last couple of years most bars have been open and even a few of the big nightclubs.
People stay up late during the holy month, and this is the time to socialize with friends and family, so do not miss all the other things the city has to offer.
Iftar is the meal after sunset, when Muslims break the fast by eating 3 dates. The city has a huge selection of lavish iftar dinners with delicious Arabic dishes and special Ramadan juices. However, globalization has even hit the iftar buffets, and I have seen sushi, spaghetti and tiramisu at iftar buffets around Dubai. An iftar buffet in Dubai typically costs 50-200 AED depending on the venue, and Ramadan juices are included but no alcohol is served.
Dress code during Ramadan
Normally, you’ll spot more leopard print tank tops and miniskirts in Dubai Marina, than you see during a whole year in Denmark, but baring too much skin is actually prohibited by law in Dubai, even though not strictly enforced. However, most people dress more conservatively during Ramadan. Flashing too much cleavage is not appropriate at this time of the year, and I can only recommend that you dress respectfully and cover up. Wear something loose-fitting and less revealing, and drape a pashmina over your shoulders. Signs at the mall entrances usually provide guidelines as to how to dress appropriately, and speaking of malls, you’ll find a lot of special Ramadan sales all over the city.
Sooo, what’s the verdict?
To put it briefly: While the nightlife might be a bit more low-key during Ramadan, the holy month offers a unique experience of the more traditional version of Dubai, which you should not be missing out on.