The United Arab Emirates, known as the UAE for short, celebrates many government, national, public, and private sector holidays. Learning about a nation’s celebrations provides insights into its history and culture. Some of the national holidays, for instance, are tied to the Islamic religion.

If you’re planning a trip to the UAE soon, it’s helpful to know the country’s major holidays. This way you can determine whether you’ll find the flights and lodging you want. Plus, you’ll know whether there will be local closures and cultural activities to participate in. Let’s look at the major holidays in the United Arab Emirates and everything you need to know about them. 

New Year’s Day

No surprise here, but New Year’s Day falls on the first of January and is a national holiday. UAE celebrates and recognizes the start of the new calendar year on this date. Because New Year’s is a national holiday, it applies to workers in the private and public sectors. Most, if not all, employers should give staff members time off to spend with family and friends. 

The exception may be essential services or personnel. For example, public services that respond to emergencies, like healthcare and law enforcement, will still be available. The New Year’s holiday extends into January 2nd in the UAE. The second day of January is also a national holiday known as the New Year’s Day Holiday. 

Israa and Miraj Night

While Israa and Miraj Night is not a public or national holiday, it does impact tourism and local businesses. It is also known as The Prophet’s Ascension or Night Journey and occurs on the 27th day of Rajab, the seventh month in Islam’s calendar.

What happens on Israa and Miraj Night is that bars and restaurants cannot serve alcohol. All live music and entertainment also stop. Liquor stores or retail locations that typically sell alcohol cannot sell it to visitors or permanent residents. 

Israa and Miaraj Night commemorates Prophet Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem from Mecca. The observance also celebrates Muhammad’s ascension into heaven as detailed in the Quran or the Islamic equivalent of the Holy Bible. 

Eid Al Fitr

Eid Al Fitr is another national holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan and fasting. However, the dates of the celebration vary depending on moon sightings. If Ramadan ends in December, Eid Al Fitr is in January. Every year Ramadan moves closer towards the beginning of the year by 11 days.  

Eid Al Fitr typically lasts for three days. It also applies to the private sector. Government and public sector offices also close unless they are emergency or essential services. An additional two days of Eid Al Fitr mark the end of Shawwal on the Islamic calendar. Plus, the public sector gets two days off beyond that. 

Those last two days are not considered national holidays, but rather government holidays. Eid Al Fitr is festival-like in nature and includes praying and eating with your family. It’s also meant to celebrate the self-control exercised during Ramadan. 

Arafat Day

Arafat Day normally occurs at the beginning of July and represents the second day of travel to the Hajj at Mecca. The Hajj pilgrimage is something Muslims commit to as part of their faith. Now, Muslims don’t have to make the trip each year. They only commit to completing the pilgrimage once while they’re alive.

All attendees and travelers must wear white clothing, as it is symbolic of equality of all humanity from God’s perspective. The gathering at the Hajj in Mecca also commemorates the devotion of Abraham to God when he prepared to sacrifice his son. According to the Quran, God used this as a test of Abraham’s faith. 

If this sounds familiar, this part of Islam matches the same recount in the Christian Bible. The difference is Christians do not make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Rather, the story of Abraham and his son is used as an example. 

Hijri New Year’s

This is a national holiday that marks the beginning of the Islamic new year. It usually happens at the end of July. In 2022, it is scheduled for July 30th in UAE. Various countries may celebrate the Islamic new year on different dates, depending on moon sightings and positions in the sky. 

Although this holiday is usually quiet, most Muslims participate in prayers in public mosques. They also take time to reflect on the meaning of death and human mortality.

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday/Mawlid

Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is on October 8th in UAE. This is a national holiday where Muslims celebrate Muhammad’s birth. It’s believed that Muhammad descended from Ishmael, one of Abraham’s sons. 

UAE residents celebrate the holiday by reciting Quran passages and attending lectures about Islam. The local mosques are also usually lit in celebration of the prophet’s birthday. Muhammad is thought to have gotten his teachings and direction from the archangel Gabriel.  

In Ras Al Khaimah, the celebration is called Mawlid and starts on October 7th. So, there are two days of commemoration instead of one. 

Commemoration Day

Commemoration Day precedes UAE National Day and is annually celebrated on November 30th. The holiday marks the sacrifices people who fought for the UAE made. Essentially, it is a national holiday that is similar to America’s Memorial Day. The holiday recognizes the fighters and other martyrs that have perished in service to the country. 

UAE National Day

UAE National Day is a two-day national holiday celebrated on December 2nd every year. The holiday commemorates the establishment of the United Arab Emirates. It marks the end of British rule and the British Treaty that made the area a British colony. In a sense, UAE National Day is equivalent to America’s 4th of July holiday. 

While there are local events and celebrations, traditional American fireworks aren’t one of them. However, the UAE flag is a prominent feature. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, there are plenty of holidays in the UAE worth celebrating. Whether you’re celebrating Prophet Muhammed’s birthday in October, or the end of Ramadan and fasting, Ras Al Khaimah has tons of opportunities to partake in new and exciting holidays.

Next time you’re in the region, take care to enjoy yourself like a local! 

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