Public Holidays celebrated in the UAE
New Year’s Day
This is the only Western holiday celebrated in the UAE.
Birth of the Prophet (Mawlid an-Nabi)
Celebrations of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed were first held four centuries after his death. Today, it is celebrated in most Muslim countries, including the UAE.
The Ascension of Prophet Mohammed (Lailat al-Miraj)
This celebration marks two parts of a journey that the Prophet Mohammed took one night in the year 621. In the first part of the journey, Isra, Mohammed is taken from Mecca to a mosque in Jerusalem by the archangel Gabriel. In the second part of the journey, Mi’raj, he is taken to the heavens, where he talks to the earlier prophets.
End of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr)
Ramadan is the holy month of fasting for all Muslims. Eid al Fitr is a 3-day festival which marks the end of Ramadan. Eid refers to “festivities” and “fitr” means to breaking a fast. Ramadan is also a time of religious contemplation, spirituality, fellowship, family and unity. This Eid, which marks the end of this time, is a time of giving, sharing and celebration.
Festival of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha)
This four-day festival is celebrated by Muslims throughout the world to celebrate the fact that Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmael to Allah. However, Allah stopped him, sending a goat to replace the boy as the sacrifice. Muslims celebrate this by sacrificing sheep and goats at this time. Much of the meat is donated to the poor. It also marks the day after pilgrims complete the annual pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj.
Every year, on December 2nd, the citizens of the UAE celebrate the founding of their country. This is an event which took place in 1971. The streets are awash with the colors of the UAE: red, white, black, red. People drape their cars in UAE flags, wave flags from the windows, dress in the national colors, wear accessories in these colors, and even paint their faces in the country’s colors. The atmosphere is like one of a country celebrating the victory of their national soccer team and expats find themselves caught up in the festivities.
Islamic New Year (Al Hijra)
The Hijra, or Islamic New Year, marks the emigration of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers to the city of Medina from Mecca in 622 AD. This marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar and dates are calculated from this time. There are no specific celebrations associated with this festival.
Muslim festivals are based on the Islamic calendar. They are based on local sightings of the moon made by a ‘moon-watching committee’. This means that dates on calendars for these festivals can only be approximations. The exact dates of holidays are announced with very little notice. Holidays may differ for public and private sector workers. The private sector will typically have fewer days of vacation to mark these occasions. Occasionally holidays are not given or are changed to fall on weekends.