Aside from all the international festivities, additional cultural and religious public holidays are also celebrated in the UAE. This means not only can you enjoy the related merriment, but you will also have more days off to take part in the recreational activities available in the UAE. Here, we have prepared a list of the UAE public holidays in 2023 so that you can make plans for having fun in advance.
UAE Public Holidays in 2023
Cultural and religious holidays are an inseparable part of people’s lives in the UAE. A glance at the Arabian calendar and you’ll find plenty of islamic public holidays and festivities during which you’ll find people keeping the cultural and religious traditions alive. These holidays also give you several days off, so knowing their exact days will help you make plans for having fun more efficiently. Here are the UAE public holidays in 2023:
|1 Jan||Saturday||New Year’s Day|
|30 Apr||Saturday||Eid al-Fitr Holiday|
|1 May||Sunday||Eid al-Fitr Holiday|
|2 May||Monday||Eid al-Fitr|
|3 May||Tuesday||Eid al-Fitr Holiday|
|4 May||Wednesday||Eid al-Fitr Holiday|
|8 Jul||Friday||Arafat Day|
|9 Jul||Saturday||Eid al-Adha|
|10 Jul||Sunday||Eid al-Adha Holiday|
|11 Jul||Monday||Eid al-Adha Holiday|
|30 Jul||Saturday||Islamic (Hijri) New Year|
|8 Oct||Saturday||Birthday of Prophet Muhammad|
|1 Dec||Thursday||Commemoration Day|
|2 Dec||Friday||UAE National Day|
|3 Dec||Saturday||UAE National Day Holiday|
Keep in mind that the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, meaning the dates are calculated based on the lunar phases and each new month begins when the waxing crescent moon is observed in the sky. Therefore, the dates mentioned for holidays in the table are subject to change, though usually no more than one day.
The lunar year is also approximately 10 to 12 days shorter than the solar Gregorian 365-day year and for that reason, islamic holidays can fall in different months and even seasons every several years.
More About UAE’s Islamic and National Holidays
You might be wondering what these holidays actually commemorate. The UAE’s public holidays are of great cultural and religious significance. Some like Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr are celebrated by all the muslims around the globe while others like prophet Muhammad’s birthday are celebrated only in specific regions of the world. Furthermore, some of the holidays like the UAE national day are exclusively celebrated in the United Arab Emirates. Below is a short introduction to the history and philosophy of each of the UAE’s public holidays:
- Eid al-Fitr: The ninth month of the islamic calendar, Ramadan, is a holy month of introspection and prayer. According to the islamic tradition, it was during this month that god presented prophet Muhammad the holy Quran. In the month of Ramadan, all the muslims around the world fast every day from dawn till dusk. Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan and the fasting period.
At the end of Ramadan, the government appoints a moon-sighting committee tasked with observing the moon crescent. If the moon is sighted, the holiday will be officially announced and Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated.
Eid al-Fitr, also known as the lesser Eid, is celebrated for 3 days in the UAE after the sighting of the moon. On the first day, which is the main religious holiday, muslims take part in communal praying in mosques or other public gathering places. It is also a customary religious tradition to hold festive meals and share food with the poor on Eid al-Fitr.
The three-day-long holiday gives the UAE’s expatriates an opportunity to not only get acquainted with the country’s cultural and religious traditions, but also get a taste of the fun the UAE can offer its residents. For instance, you can go camping in one of the many beautiful camping spots around the country. We have prepared a thorough guide on the best UAE camping spots to help you find the most convenient place for setting up your tent.
- Arafat Day (the Day of Arafah): Arafat Day is the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the islamic year. It is also the second day of Hajj, the annual islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. This means you won’t be able to attend the religious ceremonies of the Day of Arafah in the UAE. Getting to Mecca on the Arafat Day is not easy since muslims from all over the world travel to this holy city to take part in Hajj. However, those who fail to attend usually go to mosques, fast, and offer extra prayers on this day.
On the Day of Arafat, muslims gather on Mount Arafat and the plains it overlooks. Arafat is located roughly 20 kilometers east of Mecca and is said to be the site of prophet Muhammad’s farewell sermon. Pilgrims spend the night on Mount Arafat praying and reading the Quran. Later, they symbolically repel the devil by throwing stones at the three standing pillars. When the Arafat Day ends, Eid al-Adha begins and you’ll have 4 consecutive days of public holidays consecutively.
- Eid al-Adha: Occurring on the 10th day of the islamic lunar month of Dhul Hijjah, the most prominent feature of Eid al-Adha is the animal sacrifice ceremony. The ceremony commemorates the Quranic account of prophet Ibrahim that did not question the command of God ordering him to offer his son as a sacrifice. An angel sent by the god intervenes the sacrifice though and states that Ibrahim’s sacrifice has already been accepted.
On Eid al-Adha, muslims usually sacrifice a sheep, cow, camel, goat, or ram in the name of Allah. The animal’s meat is then divided into three portions; one kept for the family, one given to friends and relatives, and one given to the poor as an act of charity. In the UAE, people are not allowed to sacrifice animals at home or in public. Instead, the sacrificial animals must be taken to one of the UAE’s official slaughter houses. The animals must also meet halal standards and be the best of what the owner has or can afford and will require to pass an inspection by religious authorities.
- Islamic New Year: As mentioned above, the islamic calendar is a lunar one and the onset of each month is determined by whether the moon crescent can be sighted or not. On these grounds, the islamic new year moves between 10 to 12 days each year in the Gregorian solar calendar.
The prophet’s migration or Hijra from Mecca to Medina marks the beginning of the islamic lunar calendar. The islamic new year falls on the first day of Muharram month and begins around 6 in the evening since islamic days start after the sunset.
Muharram is of profound religious significance. It is a holy month of mourning and reflecting on the wrong-doings of the past. No big celebrations usually take place among muslims. However, many countries including the UAE declare a public holiday to commemorate the occasion.
- Prophet’s Birthday: All muslims believe that their prophet Muhammad was born in 570 A.D.. According to islam, Muhammad was the last and the greatest of the holly prophets. There are some controversies, however, regarding the exact date of birth. The Sunni majority believe that prophet Muhammad was born on the 12th day of Rabi al-Awwal while the Shia community believe their prophet’s birthday to be 5 days later; 17th of Rabi al-Awwal.
Some of the muslim communities of the UAE hold large parades and open-air celebrations to commemorate the birthday of prophet Muhammad. In these parades, men wear green clothing and carry green flags while young girls dress in pink and white. The parade usually ends with people sharing a meal or a birthday cake among each other while giving out food to bystanders regardless of their religion.
- UAE National Day: The seven emirates that constitute the UAE today were once independent nations. UAE national day commemorates the union of these emirates that occurred on December 1st, 1971, and honors the first UAE president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (check out our guide on royal families of the UAE to learn more) who led the unification movement.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi were the first emirates that united with each other on December 1st and four other emirates joined this union the next day, on December 2nd. The last emirate did not become a member of the union until February of 1972.
On the UAE national day, the whole nation is lit up and a plethora of parades, concerts, special museum exhibits, auto shows, and dancing parties are held. Expect to run into some fun events around every corner. Another interesting feature of the UAE national day is the putting up of Heritage Villages and reminiscing on the traditional Arabian lifestyle which was once the principal way of living in the region. If you’re wondering what fun you can have during the UAE national day, don’t forget to check out our article about the things to do for the UAE national day in Dubai.
Each year in the UAE you’ll be able to find many public holidays on the calendar. These holidays are of great cultural, religious, and national significance and each commemorate a major event in the history of the region. Now that you have a list of the UAE public holidays in 2023, you can make plans in advance to have fun with friends, family, or even solo. The lunar islamic calendar is different from the conventional solar calendar and the islamic year moves approximately 10 to 12 days each year in the Gregorian calendar, so these holidays will not occur on the same dates next year.
If you are a resident of the UAE, you’ll probably be delighted to know that all the businesses are closed on these public holidays and you’ll be having a few days off. You might also be wondering about how to acquire UAE citizenship. If so, check out our thorough article to learn all about the new UAE nationality law.