Ramadan 2023 is expected to begin on March 23, 2023, and end on April 21, 2023. The exact start and end dates are affected by the sighting of the crescent moon and may vary a day or two.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a holy month when Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Quran (the religious text of Islam) to the Prophet Muhammad. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Muslims must fast (sawm) from dawn to sunset during this month, abstaining from eating, drinking, sex, smoking, and even chewing gum.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam; the basic duties that all Muslims should perform. The other four pillars are the declaration of belief (shahada), prayer (salat), giving to charity (zakat), and going on a pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).
Fasting helps Muslims develop self-discipline, focus on their prayers, and teaches them about patience and humility. Fasting also encourages Muslims to put themselves in the shoes of others who are less fortunate and encourages charitable activities.
Certain classes of individuals are exempt from fasting, including infants and young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, the ill, and those who are otherwise unable to fast.
When is Ramadan in Dubai?
The month of Ramadan starts when a new moon is sighted.
The United Arab Emirates Moon Sighting Committee confirms the sighting of the crescent moon (hilal). The committee is made up of government officials, religious leaders, and astronomers.
In 2023 Ramadan is expected to start on March 23 and end on April 21. The exact dates are determined by the moon sighting and may vary by a day or so.
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, with 12 months and 354 days in total. It is shorter than the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Consequently, although Ramadan begins on the same day on the Islamic calendar, it moves 11 days forward on the Gregorian calendar each year.
Ramadan is a time of reflection and peace. The city is quieter during the day and the pace of life much slower. Muslims will commonly greet each other with phrases such as ‘Ramadan Kareem’ and ‘Ramadan Mubarak’.
If Ramadan falls in the summer, the days and fasting are longer. If it falls in the winter, days and fasting are shorter. Sunrise times, sunset times, and day lengths throughout the year can be seen in our sunrise and sunset calendar.
Iftar – Breaking of the Fast
Those observing Ramadan rise early and eat a pre-dawn meal (suhur) before the dawn prayer (fajr).
The fast is broken after sunset and evening prayer (maghrib) with an evening meal (iftar).
A notable tradition is that of firing canons to notify residents it is time to break their fast. It dates back to times before the mosques had loudspeakers to make the call to prayer. The canons are located in different parts of the city, such as Burj Park in Downtown Dubai.
In Dubai, iftar festivities are a major event, with people coming together to break their fast and enjoy a large meal. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and renewal for Muslims, and the iftar meal is an important part of that.
Restaurants and hotels put on special iftar events, often extravagant buffets in huge dining tents. It’s a beautiful sight to see the city come to life at night during Ramadan, with people coming together to break their fast and enjoy the company of friends and family.
Non-Muslim visitors are welcome in these Ramadan tents but should note that alcohol is not served with iftar.
Prayer times, at Ramadan or any time of the year, can be found here.
Laylat Al Qadr (the Night of Power) is the holiest night of the year. This is the night when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims around the world believe that Laylat Al Qadr is a time when Allah is especially close to his people and is more likely to answer their prayers.
The exact date of Laylat Al Qadr was not specified by the Prophet Muhammad. It is one of the odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan (i.e. 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th).
Rules for Non-Muslims
Dubai is a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world. If you are traveling to Dubai during Ramadan, it is important to know the rules and regulations that apply to non-Muslims during this time.
Non-Muslims are not expected to fast or take part in any of the rituals associated with Ramadan.
They should, nevertheless, respect Ramadan and avoid eating and drinking in the street and public places. Smoking in public is also not permitted.
Until recently restaurants would effectively become private areas by screening their dining areas from public view. In 2021, the Dubai Department of Economic Development announced that food outlets in Dubai would no longer be required to serve food out of public view during fasting hours.
People have been arrested for eating and drinking in public. Many non-Muslims are unaware of the restrictions and Islamic culture. The police are generally sympathetic to these individuals and will typically give them a warning first. Failing to follow their advice might result in prosecution.
Non-Muslims must dress modestly and act conservatively. This advice applies throughout the year in Dubai. however, it becomes especially crucial during Ramadam when guidelines are more strictly enforced. Swimwear should only be worn by the hotel pool.
Hotels and Restaurants
Ramadan is the perfect time to enjoy a relaxing holiday in Dubai. Hotels are much quieter and prices can be heavily discounted, making it affordable for tourists who might not otherwise be able to afford a holiday in Dubai.
The majority of hotels have at least one restaurant open during the day. As noted previously, hotels are no longer required to screen off dining areas.
Nightclubs and Alcohol
Many nightclubs close during the holy month of Ramadan. Those that stay open will not have live music or dancing.
In 2016 Dubai relaxed its alcohol laws, allowing hotel bars to serve alcohol during the daytime. Previously alcohol was sold in the evening.
Shopping – Opening Hours
Shopping malls and supermarkets are open later than usual. Some shops close during the daytime.
Some malls shut their food courts during the daylight hours, but most remain open. Prominent notices advise that the food courts are for use by non-Muslims and children. They used to be screened off, but this is no longer a legal requirement.
Popular tourist attractions (Ski Dubai, Wild Wadi, Aquaventure etc.) are open but are much quieter than at other times of the year. It’s a good time to avoid the crowds. Ticket prices are often cheaper too.
During Ramadan, most Muslims will be fasting from sunrise to sunset and there are some work changes to accommodate this.
Under the UAE Labour Law, working hours are reduced by two hours per day during Ramadan. The law applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Working hours for those in the public sector are 9 am until 2 pm. Most schools will have shorter days throughout Ramadan.
Roads can get busy in the evening when locals go out for evening meals (iftar).
- Ramadan Kareem – Greeting meaning ‘Ramadan is generous’.
- Ramadan Mubarak – Another greeting. Means ‘a blessed Ramadan’.
- Sawm – This is the Arabic word for fasting. It means ‘to refrain’.
- Suhur – The pre-dawn meal eaten before fast begins.
- Iftar – The evening meal when Muslims break their fast. It is eaten following maghrib, the prayer just after sunset.
- Hilal – The slender crescent moon first visible after a new moon, marking the beginning and end of Islamic months.
- Eid Al Fitr – The Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It translates as ‘Festival of fast breaking’. It begins on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar.
- Eid Mubarak – Traditional Muslim greeting used during Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha (another public holiday). It means ‘blessed festival’.