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Religious holidays are tied to the lunar Islamic Hijra calendar, so dates vary from year to year on the western Gregorian version of the calendar, which runs on solar time. Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha (Pilgrimage), Lailat al-Mi'raj (the Ascension of the Prophet), the Prophet's Birthday and the Islamic New Year are the main celebrations. Secular holidays include New Year's Day (1 January) and National Day (2 December). Keep in mind that Thursday and Friday make up the Dubai weekend.

It is important for newcomers to the Middle East to understand that Islamic dates are not fixed, rather they depend on the sighting of the new moon each month. For example, Eid Al Fitr is only known the evening before, thus everyone must watch the evening news or read the morning paper to know whether the next day will be a working day or Eid. This can be a source of anxiety for newcomers as in many parts of the world holidays are known way in advance and plans can be made for traveling, etc.

1 Jan
New Year's Day. Public holiday.

Early-Mid February
Dubai Shopping Festival. One of the biggest events of the year, electrifying the city with concerts, art exhibits, street performers and sports activities. Shopping malls have big sales and discounts, and there are rides and shops everywhere. There are massive fireworks displays each night. Book hotels and flights well in advance as everything fills up rapidly. There are nearly 2.7 million visitors annually. Phone 600-545-5555. Concludes mid February

Mid February
Dubai Dog Show. Very popular among dog owners. A fun family atmosphere. Nad Al Sheba Club. Phone 336-3666.

Throughout March
Camel Races. Wildly popular local races, not to be missed. Wednesday-Friday 7 am and 3 pm. Check local newspapers for more details. Free admission. Nad al-Sheba racetrack, Nad al-Sheba. Continues through late April

Late March
Horse Races. The Dubai World Cup brings horses, jockeys, trainers and owners from all over the world to compete for one of horse racing's richest purses. Nad al-Sheba racetrack, past Oud Metha Road, Bur Dubai. Phone 332-2277.

Throughout March
Horse Races. The Nad al-Sheba racecourse hosts races on Thursdays and some Saturdays, usually starting around 7 pm. General admission and parking are free. Dubai Racing Club, Nad al-Sheba. Phone 332-2277. Continues through late April

Early March
Great British Day. This annual charity event celebrates all things British. It finishes with a magnificent fireworks display. Le Meridien Mina Seyahi. Phone 397-0303.

Early-Late March
International Jewelry Dubai. This show gives the public opportunities to view rarely seen gems, along with an incredible array of jewelry. More than 225 exhibitors from at least 25 countries. Dubai International Exhibits Centre, World Trade Center, Trade Center Road, Karama. Phone 332-1000. Continues through late April

Early March
Tennis. At the Dubai Men's and Women's Tennis Open, spectators can watch top players at closer quarters than at other tournaments, with no danger of rain. Dubai Tennis Stadium at Dubai Aviation Club, Al-Garhoud. For information, call 316-6969 or 282-8971.

The main Islamic holidays are Ramadan (November), Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha (February), which marks the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Prophet's Birthday (May or June).

May
Moulid al-Nabi. Muslim holiday celebrating the birth of the prophet Muhammad.

Throughout August
Dubai Summer Surprises. Meant to attract tourists during the otherwise quiet summer months, this family-oriented event is like a small-scale Dubai Shopping Festival. All events and activities are normally held indoors. Bargains and raffles abound, and shows and concerts draw large crowds. Various locations throughout the city. Phone 600-545-5555.

November (Date Varies)
Ed Al Fitr is the three-day celebration following Ramadan. It is a festive and happy time during which Muslims do not fast; in fact, it is a time for feasts. The first day of Eid begins before dawn. After eating something (probably dates), showering, and putting on good or new clothes, Muslims gather in large outdoor areas for the first prayer of the day. Returning home from prayer, Muslims spend the day greeting friends and family. Homes are busy with visitors arriving throughout the day. Sweets, fruits, and snacks are offered to all and gifts are often given to children. Eid is a time to be thankful and generous.

Early November
U.A.E. Desert Challenge. High-profile and popular desert car, truck and motorcycle rallying event, with specific vantage points from which the public can watch the action. This final round of the World Cup cross-country rallies is part of the FIA and FIM Cross Country Rally World Cups. Phone 266-9922.

November (Date Varies)
Ramadan. The holy month during which faithful Muslims fast (no food, drink or cigarettes) from dawn to sunset. As soon as the sun goes down, the iftar (breaking of the fast) takes place, with most people hurrying to satisfy their hunger. Many businesses have shorter daytime hours. Ramadan, which begins with the first sighting of the new moon, continues for one month.

Early December
National Day Festival. Cultural activities throughout the Dubai city area celebrate this public holiday. The program includes concerts, music competitions, children's theater performances, fireworks, exhibitions, camel racing, a carnival, and traditional markets, cuisine and crafts. Various venues. For schedule and show information, contact the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. Phone 223-0000.

Mid December
Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive. This two-day, four-wheel-drive, off-road jamboree from Dubai to Fujairah is popular with residents and tourists alike. Each day involves about four hours of driving, with marshals providing help and expertise. A wonderful opportunity to see the changing face of the desert and to spend the night at a desert campsite with great food and entertainment, including belly dancing. Ends at Le Meridien Al Aquah Beach Resort in Fujairah. Only 750 cars are allowed, so booking and car rental (if required) must be arranged well in advance. For information, phone the sponsor, Gulf News, at 344-7100.

2 Dec
National Day. Public holiday.

The UAE Desert Challenge road rally is a dusty, rollicking affair that takes place in November. The race starts and finishes in Dubai, but revs through Abu Dhabi territory as well.

Details About Ramadan
Ramadan is the month during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and it is in poor form to eat, drink or smoke in public. If a Muslim friend offers you tea or coffee during the daytime in Ramadan, Ms Manners would suggest that you politely refuse. Alcohol is not served publicly at any time during Ramadan, but those with a liquor license can purchase it for consumption at home. At sundown, the feast begins.

Daily Life During Ramadan
Muslims generally eat two meals each day : the first (sahoor) is usually eaten about an hour before dawn and must finish before first light, the second (iftar) immediately follows sunset, which in some places is announced by the firing of a cannon. Once the sun goes down, Muslims usually break their fast following the example of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) by eating a few dates, offering prayers, and sitting down to dinner.

In many Muslim countries, labor laws stress that Muslims may be required to work a maximum of six hours daily. Offices, shops, and other places of employment adjust to the reduced working hours. Restaurants close and food may not be consumed openly during the day by non-Muslims or Muslims who are not fasting.

Night turns into day with prayer and family life being the focus of activities. In the UAE, shopping centers are open late into the night, the streets are crowded with people, and television offers special late night viewing for the entire family.

Allowances should be made for a marked slowing down of daily life and it may take longer than normal to transact business. When making appointments, allow for more flexibility than would normally be required.


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