Holidays and Festivals in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands as a vibrant intersection of modern architectural marvels and luxury retail alongside a rich tapestry of traditions and festive celebrations. The UAE, a federation of seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain, offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition. Explore the most significant holidays and festivals in the UAE, showcasing the country's rich heritage and the diverse ways in which its people celebrate their culture, faith, and national pride. From religious observances to film, literature, and shopping extravaganzas, the UAE's calendar is packed with events that reflect its cosmopolitan makeup and traditional values, offering something for everyone, whether you're a local resident or an international visitor.

New Year's Day

New Year's Day in the UAE is celebrated with much enthusiasm and grandeur, marking the first day of the year on the Gregorian calendar. It's a time when the country's sky is lit up with breathtaking fireworks, especially in Dubai, where the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, becomes the centerpiece of a spectacular light and fireworks show. Families and friends gather to celebrate, exchange gifts, and make resolutions for the year ahead. The day is also marked by concerts, gala dinners, and special events across various emirates, making it a memorable start to the year.

Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr, known as the Festival of Breaking the Fast, is one of the most significant Islamic holidays celebrated in the UAE. It marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The celebration begins with the sighting of the new moon, and it's a time for prayer, charity, and community. People dress in new clothes, visit relatives and friends, and share meals. The government usually declares a public holiday that lasts for several days, allowing everyone to partake in the festivities. Malls, parks, and public spaces host a variety of events, including fireworks, live entertainment, and cultural displays.

Arafat Day

Arafat Day precedes Eid al-Adha and is considered a day of reflection and prayer. It commemorates the day when Prophet Muhammad stood on the plain of Arafat to deliver his farewell sermon. For Muslims, it is a day to fast and pray, reflecting on one's deeds and seeking God's forgiveness. Although it's a day of solemn observance, it brings together families and communities in a shared spirit of devotion and contemplation.

Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, is another significant Islamic holiday celebrated with great reverence in the UAE. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to Allah, before Allah provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Families slaughter an animal (usually a sheep or a goat) and distribute the meat among family, friends, and the needy. The holiday is marked by special prayers, feasts, and the giving of gifts. It is a public holiday in the UAE, with festivities that can last up to several days, filled with social and cultural events.

Islamic New Year

The Islamic New Year, also known as Hijri New Year, marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar year. This day is observed with religious fervor, reflecting on the Hijra (the Prophet Muhammad's migration from Mecca to Medina) which this calendar is based on. It's a time for Muslims in the UAE to attend special prayers and engage in personal reflection. While it is a quieter holiday compared to others, it holds great significance in the Islamic faith, offering a moment of pause and spiritual renewal.

Mawlid

Mawlid celebrates the birthday of Prophet Muhammad and is observed with a mix of religious and cultural events in the UAE. It's a time when communities come together to remember the Prophet's teachings and life. The day is marked by recitations of the Quran, religious lectures, and poetry readings that extol the virtues and life of the Prophet. Cultural events, including parades and special programs for children, are also organized, making Mawlid a day of spiritual reflection as well as communal celebration.

Commemoration Day

Commemoration Day, also known as Martyrs' Day, is observed on November 30th in the UAE. It's a day to honor the memory of Emirati martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in the service of their country, whether in military, civil, or humanitarian missions. The day is marked by solemn ceremonies and prayers, with the UAE flag being flown at half-mast. It's a time for the nation to come together to remember and pay tribute to their bravery and sacrifices, reinforcing the values of loyalty, dedication, and patriotism.

National Day

The UAE National Day is celebrated on December 2nd each year, marking the UAE's formal nationalization from the British Protectorate Treaties in 1971 and the unification of the seven emirates into one country. It is one of the most anticipated holidays in the country, celebrated with a variety of events including parades, fireworks, car rallies, dance shows, and cultural exhibitions. The streets and buildings are adorned with the national flag, and citizens express their pride in the nation's achievements and unity. It's a vibrant, festive day that reflects the spirit of the UAE and its people.

UAE Awafi Festival

The UAE Awafi Festival is a unique celebration held annually in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. It focuses on the UAE's desert culture and heritage, featuring activities like off-road competitions, motocross races, and sand dune challenges. The festival also includes cultural exhibitions, traditional Emirati dances, and a heritage village that showcases the traditional Bedouin lifestyle. It's an exciting event for families and adventure seekers alike, offering a glimpse into the UAE's rich cultural tapestry and love for the desert landscape.

Dubai International Film Festival

The Dubai International Film Festival is a premier event in the world of cinema, attracting filmmakers, stars, and cinema enthusiasts from around the globe. It showcases a diverse array of films, including features, shorts, documentaries, and international works, with a special focus on Arab cinema. The festival not only provides a platform for showcasing talent but also facilitates discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities for film professionals. It's a celebration of cinematic excellence and an important event for the cultural calendar of the UAE.

Dubai Shopping Festival

The Dubai Shopping Festival is a shopper's paradise, held annually in Dubai. It is renowned for its incredible deals, live entertainment, and spectacular fireworks. Malls and shops offer significant discounts, making it the perfect time to purchase everything from high-end fashion to electronics. The festival also features concerts, fashion shows, and raffles with luxurious prizes. It's a family-friendly event that transforms Dubai into a festive and vibrant shopping destination, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Dubai World Cup

The Dubai World Cup is one of the richest horse races in the world, held annually at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. It attracts the best thoroughbreds, jockeys, and trainers from across the globe. The event is not just about horse racing; it includes a spectacular fashion show, with prizes for the best-dressed men and women, and a concert featuring international artists. It's a glamorous day out, combining sport, fashion, and entertainment, and is a highlight of the UAE's sporting calendar.

Dubai Marathon

The Dubai Marathon is a significant event in the global running calendar, attracting elite athletes and amateur runners from around the world. It features a full marathon, a half marathon, and a 10km race, offering something for runners of all abilities. The route takes participants past some of Dubai's most iconic landmarks, making it a scenic as well as a challenging race. It's a testament to the UAE's commitment to promoting health and fitness, and a great opportunity for participants to test their limits.

Dubai Desert Classic

The Dubai Desert Classic is a major golf tournament that is part of the European Tour. Held at the Emirates Golf Club, it attracts some of the biggest names in golf. The tournament is known for its challenging course and competitive field, offering golf fans a chance to see world-class golf in a stunning desert setting. It's not just a sporting event; it's a social gathering that includes clinics, entertainment, and activities for the whole family, making it a key event in the UAE's sports calendar.

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the Middle East's largest celebration of the written and spoken word. The festival brings together authors, poets, and speakers from around the world to participate in discussions, workshops, and readings. It covers a wide range of genres and topics, making it an enriching experience for literature lovers of all ages. The event fosters a love of reading and writing, and provides a platform for cultural exchange, making it a cornerstone of the UAE's cultural events.

In essence, the United Arab Emirates offers a rich tapestry of holidays and festivals that reflect its cultural diversity, religious traditions, and modern aspirations. From religious observances that underscore the spiritual fabric of the nation to international festivals that showcase its global connectivity and cultural dynamism, the UAE's celebrations are a testament to its vibrant community and the inclusive spirit that defines it. Each festival and holiday, whether deeply traditional or markedly contemporary, is an opportunity for both Emiratis and visitors to immerse themselves in the rich heritage and forward-looking ethos of the UAE. These events not only provide moments of joy and celebration but also foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the diverse backgrounds and traditions that enrich the fabric of UAE society. As the country continues to evolve, these celebrations remain a vital link to its past, a reflection of its present, and a glimpse into its future, ensuring that the cultural legacy of the UAE is cherished and perpetuated for generations to come.

Upcoming Holidays (next six months)

HolidayDateDayType
Eid al-Adha Holiday June 18 Tuesday Public Holiday
Eid al-Adha Holiday June 19 Wednesday Public Holiday
Islamic New Year July 08 Monday Public Holiday
Mawlid (Prophet Muhammad's Birthday) September 16 Monday Public Holiday
Commemoration Day November 30 Saturday Public Holiday
National Day December 02 Monday Public Holiday
National Day Holiday December 03 Tuesday Public Holiday

Holidays by Year

Previous Year: 2023
This page was last edited on 21 February 2024 at 12:41 PM (EST).