All You Need to Know about Dune Bashing in Dubai

If you are ever in Dubai in the UAE you must go dune bashing on a Desert Safari Dubai tour! Regardless of whether or not you are a thrill seeker at heart, dune bashing in Dubai is a great way to go exploring the vast sands and have some fun. Drifting over the soft dunes of Dubai continues to top most traveller’s bucket lists because it truly is a thrilling experience.

To add to the experience, you are surrounded by a plethora of dune bashing locations, camel rides, dinner in a Bedouin-style camp, henna hand painting and belly dancing. There are loads of different desert safari companies to go with, but we highly recommend this desert tour.

See also: Where to Stay in Dubai

Dune bashing in Dubai

What is dune bashing?

Dune bashing in Dubai means driving at increasing and decreasing speeds over sand dunes. As the surface of the sand keeps shifting, it takes a special skill and a special type of car to navigate the terrain – usually a sports utility vehicle (SUV). Expect a stop to let the air out of your tyres as reducing the pressure gives the vehicle more traction against the moving sand.

What to expect when going dune bashing in Dubai

Oftentimes these Dubai desert tour experience starts with pick-up at your hotel or home stay, followed by a 45 minute to an hour-long drive out to sparse desert landscape where there are no city noises to obscure your hearing and no towering buildings to block your view.

The dune bashing part of the trip is a bumpy and thrilling ride that lasts about an hour. The vehicles travel in convoy and stick close together as they perform their stunts. If you’re like me, you will enjoy the slipping and the  sliding, the skidding and the spinning – all punctuated by sporadic seat-gripping and different decibels of screaming and shouting. And sand, lots and lots of sand!

Tip: Try to secure the front passenger seat or a window for the best views!

What to wear for dune bashing in Dubai

Dress comfortably because inevitably the sand gets into everything. I recommend a hat or a scarf to cover your hair, and long pants and a light shirt or t-shirt. I wore sneakers and socks in an effort to cover my feet but the sand got into them anyway, so I could very well have worn sandals.

For persons who wear contact lenses, I suggest wearing shades as well because small grains of sand get into your eyes very easily when you are outside the vehicle. With no running water nearby, eye-drops alone won’t be enough to clear them.

After the drive, you are allowed to exit the vehicle, walk around and take pictures. The evening drives are timed to end just before sunset so be ready to capture some pretty cool shots then.

The Dubai desert safari tour with a trip to a Bedouin-style camp where the Middle Eastern-influenced dinner menu includes a variety of meats and salads with some desserts. Optional camel riding, henna painting, shisha smoking and belly dancing often complete the evening’s activities.

If you’re visiting in the winter months, then take a light jersey or scarf for the evening as they can get quite chilly. Some evenings can get a bit chilly once the sun sets.

Why should you consider dune bashing?

I could honestly write an entire blog on just this question alone, but simply out: it truly is an authentic Dubai experience. You cannot really claim that you were in Dubai unless you can brag about dashing your way through its sandy dunes. These native Dubai desert tours will not only offer you a new form of adventure but show you the adventurous sides of Dubai – of which there are many! These desert safaris will push you to new speeds, sights and thrills!

How much does dune bashing in Dubai cost?

Budget for the AED 360.00 price range but please check various tour sites for the most up-to-date information. I did my tour with Arabian Adventures and the adult rate is a little cheaper in the summer months, from June 1- August 31st. But bear in mind you will be in the desert and it is at its hottest temperatures at that time of year.

See availability and book for your tour below:

The most popular spots for dune bashing experience in Dubai

If you want to go dune bashing by yourself rather than with a tour, these are the best spots to go to.

  • Bidayer: Known as ‘Big Red’ for its red sand, this is the most popular spot for Dubai dune bashing as the dunes are easy for beginners and less skillful drivers. It’s about 45 minutes from the centre of Dubai.
  • Sweihan: This spot requires more technical experience with some big dunes. It’s not recommended if you don’t know what you are doing.
  • Liwa Desert: The largest desert in Arabian Peninsula and the most tricky place for dune bashing. Most of the dune bashing stunt festivals happen here, and it’s where the professionals hang out.

There are so many bold and daring activities for you to embark on when you visit the gorgeous escapes of Dubai. Dune bashing is one of the most popular activities and it is one that you should definitely consider. Take my word for it when I say that it is an experience you will never forget. Checking that off of your bucket list is one of the best feelings and one that we hope you will get to experience yourself too!

Check out these posts for more Dubai experiences

Where to Stay in Dubai

Dubai is one of the top destinations in the Middle East, with a massive landmass and population of around 4 million. It’s more well known for its exuberant buildings and hot climate, which averages approximately 15 million visitors per year in non-pandemic times.

One of the defining features of Dubai is space and you’ll need a vehicle to traverse the cities, neighbourhoods and top destinations. Because of this, figuring out where to stay in Dubai is an important part of your planning! You’ll find vastly different areas when travelling to the different regions of Dubai, including many landmarks, activities and price points for accommodation.

Below, we talk about where to stay in Dubai, including the best areas to stay in Dubai and the top accommodation you could imagine! 

See also: All You Need to Know about Dune Bashing in Dubai

The best areas to stay in Dubai

As we mentioned before, Dubai is quite a diverse city, and each district feels a bit like a different place! Luckily, Dubai’s skyline helps keep one grounded, no matter which area you choose to visit. Here are best areas to stay in Dubai with accommodation options in each.

Old Dubai

Areas like Al Seef and Al Fahidi represent traditional Dubai, with great museums, wind towers, colourful souks (markets) and the majestic Dubai creek.

Old Dubai is one of the best places to stay in Dubai for a glimpse into the tradition and culture of Dubai, which is sure to be one of the most exciting and unique parts of your trip.

See also: Explore the Culture and Traditions in Dubai

Al Seef Heritage Hotel 

Are you wondering where to stay in Dubai in the ‘old’ part of the city? Al Seef Heritage Hotel by Hilton is a great choice. Set overlooking the Dubai Creek (where you can join a Dubai dhow cruise) and located next to the Museum of Illusions, this four-star hotel offers a luxury visit. The Burj Khalifa is relatively close, with many malls, the Dubai International Airport, and the Dubai World Trade Centre not far behind.

Book your stay at Al Seef Heritage Hotel

Where to stay in Dubai - Heritage Hotel by Hilton
Heritage Hotel by Hilton

Jumeirah Beach Residence 

Many resorts around the Jumeirah Beach Residence area offer a fantastic array of watersport activities, including jet skis, parasailing, paddle boating, and kayaking (check out these crazy things to do in Dubai). 

Other resort activities in the area include hot air balloons, quad biking and camel rides, which you can arrange before arriving in Dubai. This area is one of the best places to stay in Dubai if you are looking for family fun and water sports or other physical activities.

Additionally, you can find Jumeirah Beach (also known as JBR) in this region, making it a delightful holiday destination. 

See also: Fun Things to Do in Dubai With Kids

Beach Walk Hotel 

Need to find where to stay in Dubai in the Jumeirah Beach area? Beach Walk Hotel is a great choice! This four-star hotel offers an outdoor pool, modern design and clean furnishings and finishes. You’ll also get access to the fitness centre located within the hotel.

The Miraj Islamic Art Centre and Kite Beach are in the immediate area, a kitesurfer’s paradise.

Book your stay at Beach Walk Hotel

Beach Walk Hotel in Dubai
Beach Walk Hotel 

Park Regis Boutique Hotel 

Were you looking for something a bit different than your average hotel for your next trip to Dubai? You’ll enjoy the Park Regis Boutique Hotel in JBR, Dubai. This unique hotel is near Umm Suqeim beach, Suqeim park and the Wild Wadi Waterpark. 

We think active families would love this location for its hot tubs, water sports, babysitting services and dedicated family room. 

Book your stay at Park Regis Boutique Hotel

Park Regis Boutique Hotel
Park Regis Boutique Hotel

Dubai Marina

The Dubai Marina is one of the best places to stay in Dubai for nightlife. Surprisingly, Dubai is one of the more relaxed Arab nations regarding drinking and alcohol. Still, you’ll find a strict zero-tolerance policy for public drunkenness, and alcohol is heavily taxed in the city.

Despite this, Dubai Marina is the best of all answers to the question ‘Where to stay in Dubai for the best nightlife?’ You will find alcohol in licensed restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs. In this area, you’ll find trendy nightclubs on the rooftops of high-rises in the city.

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa 

Want one of the best places to stay in Dubai’s marina area? Look no further than Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa. This luxury resort includes spa access, three outdoor pools for guests, as well as a private beach complete with sun loungers and umbrellas. There’s even a children’s play area for families, as well as breathtaking decor throughout. 

The hotel also offers 4 bars and seven restaurants for the most discerning guests. 

Book your stay at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa

Places to stay in Dubai - Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa

Sparkle 405 – Merida

If you are a single traveller or perhaps a couple, you may enjoy Sparkle 405 – Merida, a studio apartment in the Dubai Marina district. You’ll indeed have a more cosy experience when staying at your apartment instead of a hotel! 

Featuring an open-plan kitchen, this fully-equipped studio offers quick access to the Beach Mall, Bluewaters Island, Skydive Dubai and more. 

Book your stay at Sparkle 405 – Merida

Bur Dubai

Bur Dubai is arguably one of the best areas to stay in Dubai for sightseeing and shorter stays, as it offers a lot to see and do without travelling too far! 

This area is one of the most central in all of Dubai, meaning that you won’t spend hours travelling to and from your chosen destinations every day. Bur Dubai offers ample public transport and metro stations for more distant locations. You’ll also find many taxis in the streets and in proximity to authentic bazaars, traditional boats, floating restaurants, and historic neighbourhoods. 

Green House Hotel Apartments 

Are you wondering where to stay in Dubai that offers central access to the city, as well as a modern experience? Green House Hotel and Apartments might be the perfect choice for you! 

The best part about this hotel is that it offers a choice between standard hotel rooms and apartments, with over 98 rooms. Secondly, a rooftop pool, gym, and breakfast buffet are included for every guest. 

Additionally, features include a dedicated children’s pool and proximity to BurJuman Mall, Dubai Museum and Grand Mosque. 

Book your stay at Green House Hotel and Apartments

Where to stay in Dubai
Green House Hotel Apartments

Downtown Dubai 

Downtown Dubai is one of the best places to stay in Dubai for those visiting Dubai on a work trip. Downtown Dubai and Business Bay contain many office blocks, apartments and luxury hotels. It’s located about halfway between old and new Dubai, and the area is most well known for the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. 

It’s also home to Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in the world. It’s also reasonably convenient to reach via metro or taxi services that connect to Dubai international airport. 

See also: A Guide to Shopping in Dubai

Vida Downtown 

Do you want to discover where to stay in Dubai in the middle of the central district? We think you’ll love Vida Downtown, a 4-star hotel in Dubai’s Downtown district. 

This hotel features over 150 guestrooms, an outdoor pool and lounge area, a business centre, modern lounges and gym and bicycle services for guests.

This beautiful hotel is close to the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain, Dubai Ice Rink and Burj Park.

Book your stay at Vida Downtown

Vida Downtown hotel
Vida Downtown

Dream Inn Apartments – Claren Downtown 

Want to discover where to stay in Dubai where you can have your apartment yet feel like you’re living in a hotel? Dream Inn Apartments is located in the heart of Dubai and offers bright, comfortable apartment stays for families of different sizes.

Here, you’ll find everything you could expect in your apartment – including a lounge, dining area, patio, modern kitchens, large bedrooms and sweeping views of Dubai.

Book your stay at Dream Inn Apartments

Dream Inn Apartments
Dream Inn Apartments

These are the best places to stay in Dubai

Regardless of your personal favourite best areas to stay in Dubai, we know that you’ll find something you love in Dubai when it comes to your next trip. Whether travelling for work, family time or leisure, we think you’ll find your own best places to stay in Dubai when you visit next.

Choose from some of the most popular places in Dubai, such as Downtown Dubai, Bur Dubai, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach and Old Dubai. Of course, there are plenty of other places to find in Dubai which we haven’t mentioned!

We hope you have a better idea of where to stay in Dubai when you are due for your next trip. 

A Guide to Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai (for Non-Muslims)

When the time comes around for Ramadan in Dubai, everything changes in the city.

Breakfast will become dinner, night will become day, and fasting turns to feasting.

For non-Muslim tourists, Ramadan in Dubai seems to be something to avoid like bad weather. In Muslim countries, not just those observing Ramadan, everyone fasts, at least in public.

Malls are wastelands, there’s nothing at all to do during the day in this unbearable heat. Everyone is hungry and grumpy. Working hours drop to 10 to 3, and sometimes nobody turns up to open the shop at all. Ramadan in Dubai generates its own little off season, and all those who don’t want to fast stay safe and well-fed in their own countries until it is safely over.

For the believers however, Ramadan is a string that draws them back to Islamic countries – it’s a time to be united with those of similar goals. Not only that, can you imagine fasting from dawn to dusk in Norway in Summer? No easy task.

But, I’m going to tell you that you should not avoid the Middle East at this time, even if you are a food traveller seeking fodder and cultural experience simultaneously.

Ramadan becomes, in fact, one of the best times to experience regional cuisine and really experience the traditional culture in Dubai.

You just have to do it in the dark.

Like many Christian celebrations (Christmas, Easter, etc), Ramadan has become a period of celebration that has commercial appeal, and every single hotel or restaurant has jumped on the bandwagon. There are two words you will see in every brochure, hear in every lobby, and if you are Muslim, possibly dream about under every sun-drenched minute, and they are Iftar and Suhoor.

Ramadan in Dubai
Ramadan in Dubai

A Guide to Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai (for non-Muslims)

What is Iftar?

This occurs just after sunset (Maghrib), and is the equivalent of breakfast. Yes, you break-fast just after 7pm. Traditionally it is dates and water or milk (the Prophet Mohammed broke his fast with three dates), similar to a small breakfast many of us would take in the mornings. One of my favourite bloggers, Arva Ahmed, takes us through the legitimate experience here, in a way that almost makes the most gluttonous of us all want to fast.

But that’s not usually what you’ll find when you attend Iftar.

And yes, as a non-muslim, you can attend.

Amazing, isn’t it, that you can celebrate the breaking of the fast even though you cracked five hours before, and five hours before that, and probably at several other intervals during your day (even if it was in a cupboard where nobody could catch you).

Iftar when it occurs at a restaurant is genereally fairly lavish. It starts after sunset, and most Muslims will not arrive still fasting – they will have broken their fast simply and prayed before arriving. And then, the feasting begins. It’s a little like a splash-up british weekend brunch (without the champagne) – the dishes range from salads through to whole baked animals, syrupy desserts and fresh fruits and vegetables. To be honest, a little fasting is recommended during the day, even for those not wholly committed, because there will be so much amazing food, you’re likely to hurt yourself if you don’t have an empty belly to start.

What is Suhoor?

Anyone coming to the Middle East and observing Islamic culture would believe that this translates as second dinner. The hotels and restaurants all seem to serve Suhoor from around 9:30 or 10pm, usually with an a-la-carte menu rather than the feasting style meal of iftar. And I suppose, if Iftar is your breakfast, then Suhoor is your dinner.

However, Suhoor is not usually eaten directly after Iftar, but in fact in the very early morning, just before prayers and the sunrise. For tourists however, or even for those who didn’t make it to Iftar, the hours have crept back into a more suitable restaurant-opening time.

What this means is that all those restaurants that would usually be open for lunch, but have to close during the day for the holy month now get to keep their doors open for a constant service – it’s just at night time. It also means that all those jetlagged Australians and Americans on a stopover to Europe can get up at midnight, walk around the souks while it’s a little cooler (trust me, you’re not doing that during the day at this time of year), and have a shawarma at 4am, then sleep in until the airport dash.

What to eat during Ramadan in Dubai

  • Harira – this is a Middle Eastern lentil soup with tomato and coriander base, lightly spiced and usually slightly brothy with small chunks of beans, lentils and meat. It can however be quite creamy, depending on how much the chef has decided to puree the mix.
  • Harees or ursiyah – a wheat (or for the latter, rice) dish that can resemble anything from soup to concrete. It should be somewhere in the middle, similar to a congee. It will usually contain shredded slow-cooked lamb or chicken. It’s a gentle, and some may say, bland, dish, that is very traditional during Ramadan, probably due to it’s ability to fill the belly quickly without causing digestive disorders.
  • Sambousa or Sambousek – Filo pastry triangles filled with sweet spiced lamb or sometimes feta cheese. Just eat one or two – there is plenty more coming…
  • Ouzi – this really just means spiced lamb with rice, but during Ramadan, it is so much more. It’s usually a whole lamb (innards included), cooked for 24 hours in a pit. Spices are sweet and fragrant – cinnamon will feature heavily, and will often be combined with nuts and dried fruit. It’s served with all its juices oozing onto a bed of rice, and it’s abloutely incredible. Just make sure you have good light if you don’t like offal, because you might end up with a bit of gizzard if you’re not careful. (leave it for those like us who class it as a delicacy)
  • Khoresht Fesenjan – a Persian origin chicken stew made with pomegranate molasses and walnuts. Deep brown and gluey-looking, but delicious, usually slightly sour (some make it sweet) and gently spiced.
  • Maqlouba or Maglouba – translates roughly as “upside-down”, and is a chicken and rice casserole similar in style to a biryani, but with tomato and more savoury flavours (plenty of cumin) and larger pieces of meat. Can be made with lamb and/or eggplant, depending on the origin of the chef.
  • Mujaddara – rice and lentils with savoury spices (like cumin, garlic, bay leaf, again will depend on origin of chef), brown lentils and topped with sweet crispy fried onions. Sometimes has little threads of vermicelli noodle.
  • Salad – generally avoided as those breaking the fast tend to head for the richer dishes. However, expect all the standards – fatoush, tabouleh, roca and white cheese, za’atar and haloum,  and plenty of raw salad vegetables including radish, which is vital if you want to aid your digestion.
  • Qatayef – dessert, served in singular pie form  crumbly light pastry, stuffed with white cheese that really just tastes and shares the texture of burrata. Soaked in a cardamom, rose and saffron syrup, and often sprinkled with ground pistachios. Also look for Kunafe, which is sliced from a large flat pan in wedges. Same syrup, same cheese, but topped with crunchy vermicelli-shaped crumble.
  • Umm Ali – an Arabic Bread and Butter pudding, but more delicate than the British versions, often made with pastry rather than bread, and flavoured with rose, cardamom and pistachio. Sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Muhallabiya – creamy rice dessert, usually served cold. The rice is ground and so the texture is more like a custard. Pure white, flavoured with rose and pistachio.
  • Dates – there will be plenty on offer, particularly as the season has started early this year, so there may be some fresh ones to try. Also expect to find size and shape, colour, and tastes that vary from caramel to molasses to plum.
What to eat during Ramadan in Dubai
What to eat during Ramadan in Dubai

What to drink during Ramadan in Dubai

  • Jallab – a rose, grape molasses and date concoction, deep red, and resembling grenadine. Served with nuts (usually pine nut or almond) on top.
  • Tamar hind – translates as “Indian date” and is, you guessed it, a tamarind drink. Usually sweetened and made with water, lemon juice and rosewater. Slightly sour.
  • Kharoub – or carob, is a watery, chocolatey flavoured drink, found only rarely.
  • Sahlab – or Salep, a milky hot drink made with the tubers of Orchid roots, and flavoured with orange blossom, nuts, and/or dried fruit
  • Qamar eddin – a drink made from sheets of dried apricot paste, usually with added orange juice.
  • Lemon juice –not pure lemon juice, but sweetened and slightly dilute like an old fashioned lemonade. Fabulous for the digestion, and very refreshing. Sometimes flavoured with chopped mint.
  • Karkadeh – Deep red/brown Cordial made from dried hibiscus flowers. Can be sweet and innocuous, but ususally slightly sour, intense, deep and floral. Often replaced with Vimto, which is a bottle-cordial that tastes like Creamy Soda without the bubbles.
  • Gahwa – Arabic coffee – percolated rather than espresso-style, quite dilute and infused with cardamom. Drunk in shots. This is what will be in the pretty tall teapots.

Where to go in Dubai for a Ramadan feast?

For small budgets:

  • Al Ibrahami Palace – this Pakistani buffet restaurant in Karama near Burjaman is known by Pakistanis in Dubai as being one of the best.
  • If Iranian is your thing (and they really do make the lamb the best), then try Danial in Al Mazaya or Abshar in Jumeirah.
  • Step up in price just a little at Aroos Damascus, in Al Rigga for Syrian cuisine with a cult following. Try their Shakria – lamb in yoghurt. Yum.
  • Arabian Courtyard – Very well priced iftar served in their Al Khaimah ballroom and out on the terrace (It’s a small ballroom and the AC conveniently drifts out into the open area). Most of the classics and some added Indian flavour. There’s live grilling and chaat stations (yummy balls of fire and sweet and sour tamarind), and those who can’t get through the night without a drink can pop into Sherlock Holmes next door afterwards.
  • Barjeel Guest House in the Heritage Village is the tiny sister of the Arabian Courtyard. If you want to dine in traditional Emirati Style, then this would be your best bet.
  • Al Hallab – for a Lebanese themed iftar and plenty of traditional dishes.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

For glutton muffins:

  • The H Hotel – Arcadia Lounge will have a sumptuous buffet including Ramadan beverages. The plus is it’s all done under the eye of consulting celebrity chef Silvena Rowe, so expect a few twists. There will also be a combination of traditional and contemporary Arabic entertainment throughout the night, and even a kids majilis.
  • Asateer Tent at Atlantis is the big shebang. This place holds 850 people, so can get fairly busy, especially if the hotel is full. Food is always exceptional in this venue, so expect to be spoiled.
  • Bab Al Shams have Iftar offerings at Al Forsan (inside) and Al Hadheera (outside – eek! But I guess it is less humid in the desert, and they do have fans everywhere), and both are probably worthwhile, but for me, the pick is the Suhoor platters (complete with manakish) and the flickering candles and Arabian view at Sarab rooftop lounge. They have fans, but if it gets too hot, you can always toddle inside.
  • Ritz Carlton DIFC – it’s one of the more expensive around, but there’s a couple of highlights. Firstly, you can dine outside in their Ramadan Garden, which is air conditioned. Yes, you read that correctly. Secondly, they have a swathe of the traditional goodies including a fatteh station (toasted pita, tahini and chick-pea dish). But they also have a twist – Arabic Sushi, prepared by their Osaka-experienced chef Ron Pietruszka, who is injecting some health and light in. Chicken shawarma with pickles as a maki-roll? Sounds interesting.
  • Madinat Jumeirah have plenty of options, and offer a booking of six for the price of four with Mastercard. If there are less than six of you, then you can just take the 20% off deal with the same credit card. The big one is Arboretum, a very traditional setting in tent-style buildings around the Al Qasr pool.
  • The Ramadan Majlis at Dubai World Trade Center is fairly well priced for a grand-scale. Traditional foods and Shisha served. They also serve Suhoor all the way through to 4am on the weekends.

If you want something more culture than vulture:

  • Iftar at mosques is generally for Muslims, however you would never be turned away if you are not. Please remember to dress respectfully, and you may join, in most cases, for a free meal (it will be very basic – probably just bread, dates and water). The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi welcomes all cultures as can be read in attached article, but you will find that nearly every mosque has a Ramadan tent erected. Be discreet, ask before entering, try fasting yourself, and you will probably be welcome.
  • The Sheikh Mohammad centre for Cultural Understanding (otherwise known as SMCCU) offer a cosier gathering. You can share the whole tradition of breaking the fast with them in one of the heritage houses, followed by question and answer time. I’ve done breakfast with them, and it was quite a treat.
  • For something a little out of the box, contact the Malaysian consulate, and see if they are still doing their Friday Iftars.

Some tips for experiencing Ramadan in Dubai for the uninitiated

  • Eating during the day – this is prohibited for all Muslims (except a few exemptions like children, the aged or infirm, pregnant or nursing mothers), and in public, it’s also prohibited for everybody else. This includes anything that may go in the mouth, so water, chewing gum and even smoking are taboo. If you are caught, you can get arrested for this. However, the chance of this happening is very low, as most will be offended rather than downright disgusted by your behaviour. Police will probably let you off with a warning as long as you are genuinely surprised and promise to refrain from further gobbling in front of starving people.
  • Expected behaviour – This is a very holy time, and so you are expected to behave with due respect. All those little laws that are relaxed during the year will be a little more strictly enforced. If you walk around the malls with a tank top and short shorts on, expect to be snarled at. If you are in a traditional area of Dubai, e.g. around the Naif souq, or in other emirates, particularly in smaller towns, you may even get spat at or arrested. Absolutely no canoodling in public, and expect to spend a night in the slammer if you’re a bit too drunk.
  • Booze – Surprisingly, you can still get alcohol at this time of year in many Muslim countries, and this is definitely the case in Dubai. However, most venues will remain dry until around 8pm, and will definitely stop service before the sunrise. Liquor stores remain open, but in some cases hours are reduced.
  • Restaurant openings during Ramadan – Most restaurants will serve food from 8pm to around midnight, with many staying open until just before sunrise during this period. This will definitely be the case in Malls (here’s a guide to shopping in Dubai) – you cannot even get a coffee during the day, but they will have extended opening hours at night (usually until 12 or 1am). There are some exemptions, which you will find in subtle areas, usually with a black curtain drawn around, or with entry restricted to back doors. Some open venues in Dubai listed below:
  • International hotels will usually have at least one restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, and will continue to offer room service all day.
  • You’ll usually find a few cafes open, perhaps just with a curtain covering the windows.
  • For something more substantial, head to the DIFC, which seems, as a free zone, to have more flexibility.
  • There are also other free zones to head for: JAFZA (where 1762 is in Jebel Ali), Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Healthcare City, Media City, where you will find most outlets open.
  • Take-away outlets are also open, and it is possible to buy food from supermarkets and other food outlets, however you will have to take food to a private place to consume it.

And finally, your Ramadan Glossary

  • Ramadan – also known as Ramazan, the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, when it was believed the Quran was given from heaven to the Prophet Mohammed. All Muslims that have reached puberty, male and female, must participate in fasting during Ramadan from dawn until dusk.
  • Suhoor – also called Sehur and Sahari, translates as “of the dawn”. Also refers to the very early morning meal.
  • Sawm – the fasting time (daylight). Nothing is to be taken by mouth, including water. Thoughts and actions are also to remain pure.
  • Maghrib – sunset.
  • Iftar – breaking of the fast. Also a splash-up buffet
  • Laylat al-Qadr – believed to be the night when the Quran was first revealed. Every second night for five nights at the end of Ramadan. The most holy time of the holy month.
  • Zakat – charity. Because all deeds committed during Ramadan are more handsomely rewarded than at other times of the year, you will find quite a bit of this going on. This can range from providing meals to strangers, donating clothes and money to the poor or providing whopping great tips to struggling waiters and cabbies.
  • Eid al Fitr – the celebration at the end of Ramadan. This is like our Christmas – non-stop partying, public holidays, gifts. Just no big fat dude in red creeping down the wind tower.

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