Have you ever been out to lunch with a friend, casually start strolling thru the getaway section at Groupon, and stumble across an offer too good to pass up? That was me in January! I was sitting eating a nice piece of salmon when we saw a 7 day tour of Dubai for less than $1500 – roundtrip flights, hotel costs, 3 days full of tours and excursion. All for under $1500….we couldn’t get our credit cards out fast enough to book that trip
In our defense, we had been looking to go out of the country sometime this year. It was her big 4-0 and she had never traveled internationally. We had decided on Greece but all of the Groupon offers only flew out of NY or LA, so that was useless. We came across Dubai and decided to go for it. It wasn’t until weeks later when we realized we would be traveling to Dubai during Ramadan.
For those that have no clue what Ramadan is (don’t feel bad. Up until 3 months ago, I had no clue), Ramadan is the holy month for the Islamic community. It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims partake in a month of fasting, praying, reflection, and community. During this month, there is to be no eating/drinking in public from sunrise to sunset (typically 7am – 7pm). You can see where this could be a problem for us traveling to Dubai and wanting to be respectful of their religious holiday but not wanting to starve while we were there.
I’m not going to lie; I was a little hesitant and nervous about going. There were so many things I heard and read online about what to and what not to do while we were there. So much so that I thought we would be in the hotel for the entire 5 days until 7pm and then we would be able to roam (being fully clothed because I heard stories about what women can and couldn’t wear). It also didn’t help that when we tried to book a dinner show for one night, it was promptly cancelled and we were refunded because ‘they don’t operate during Ramadan’. Oh boy! It’s not looking too good. Nevertheless, we packed, boarded a 14 hour flight, and headed to a trip full of uncertainty.
Fast forward to me being back in the States, I can truly say Dubai was a trip I will never forget and all those fears and apprehensions about traveling during their religious month was wasted anxiety. Here are a couple of tips/things I learned:
- Your hotel and several restaurants will still be operating during their normal hours. Most places have blackout curtains and partitions around the windows and doors. This satisfies the ‘no public eating and drinking’ requirement
- Yes this is a predominant Islamic country but you are free to wear whatever you may like. I didn’t bring any shorts or short dresses with fear that it would be seen as insensitive but there were several people that had on shorts (many above the knee) and didn’t see any public backlash. Just don’t dress like you’re on the beaches of South Beach and you should be okay
- The city wakes up at 7pm so if you want to experience Dubai and get some quality pics without having to crop and Photoshop 100 people out of your picture, try exploring the city during Ramadan hours, less crowded.
- Malls and stores will be open with many of them not closing until 12 midnight (many restaurants are open until after midnight til 1am)
- Speaking of shopping, several stores have Ramadan sales that you can take advantage of (don’t forget to take a picture of your passport and have it with you while shopping. Tourists can take advantage of tax free shopping – very beneficial when shopping for expensive purchases such as designer items or gold)
- Speaking of Gold! (lol), Dubai is the gold city of the world. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT leave the city without buying a piece of gold. The Gold Souk has dozens and dozens of stores selling everything from 18 – 24k gold chains, bracelets, rings, etc. I was told that the price was fixed and haggling wouldn’t work – they lied. I haggled my way to 3 18k gold chains with charms to match – all for less than 800 USD.
- Several excursions will still operational during Ramadan. We took a trip to the desert, camel riding, day trip to Abu Dhabi to see the largest mosque in the world. There was a dinner/dance show that we book that was subsequently cancelled because of the holiday, but most excursions/day trips were still open and booked.
All in all, I had a great time. I never visit the same place twice because I have so many countries on my list, but Dubai just might be the one country that breaks my rule.