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Ramadan can be a challenge for visitors, but it is also an interesting time to be in Abu Dhabi and as hotel prices usually drop it can be worth visiting the city during Ramadan.
Ramadan is the name of the month of fasting in the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. The exact timing is determined by the sighting of the moon and varies with the lunar calendar, so starts approximately 10 days earlier each year. The expected start of Ramadan in 2015 is 18th June. Marking the end of Ramadan is a public holiday for Eid Al Fitr (expected to be around 17th July in 2015).
Ramadan is a time of prayer and Muslims often spend more time praying than at other times. Muslims will usually get up and eat suhoor before the day-break prayer. Everyone is expected to dress conservatively, with women also expected to keep make-up to a minimum.
In Abu Dhabi working hours are reduced for Muslims and non-Muslims in most work-places. The city tends to be very quiet during the day and comes alive at night. Many buildings and the roadsides are decorated with bright coloured lights each evening.
It is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours during Ramadan. The law also applies to anyone travelling car or bus. Cafes and restaurants are closed during the day. Even at hotel pools and beaches the no eating/smoking/drinking rule applies (although since 2009 there was some relaxation of this rule in some of the larger hotels). Four and five star hotels usually have some restaurant facilities for non-fasting guests hidden from public view. It is possible to get meals delivered by room service, of course. Supermarkets are still open and most takeaways still deliver; but as it is hot, if you are out it is necessary to find somewhere to drink water discreetly. Unfortunately this often means heading to the restrooms or toilets.
Ramadan tents are also a feature at hotels where iftar and suhoor are served. Iftar is usually fixed price; suhoor is from late in the evening and is a la carte with a minimum charge. Shisha (also known as nargile, hookah or water pipe) is also available in Ramadan tents. For visitors it is important to note that at Le Royal Meridien hotel the Ramadan tent is always erected over the swimming pool and garden so those facilities are not available from a few days before the start of Ramadan and around a week afterwards.
Iftar (the meal where the fast is broken) is a huge daily celebration. Diners sit at the table waiting for the call for prayer to announce that fasting is over. Typically someone who is fasting will sip water or juice and eat a couple of dates, then perform a short prayer before starting a big Iftar meal. Restaurants all over the city offer good value fixed-price Iftar buffets. Alcohol is not available with Iftar buffets.
There is no music or dancing allowed during Ramadan, so nightclubs are closed. Pubs and bars usually open from around 7:30 pm, but there is no live music. Some hotels (such as the Rotana group of hotels) do not serve alcohol in any of their outlets during Ramadan, even at night.
For those residents with a liquor license, the shops selling alcohol do not close during Ramadan, but are closed during Eid Al Fitr.
Most shops are shut in the afternoon and re-open after sunset, closing at around midnight. Some small business are even open up until day-break. There are often price reductions for clothes and electrical goods during Ramadan.
At Eid Al Fitr, as soon as Ramadan is over all shops return to normal opening hours.
For further information on the timing of Ramadan and other information on Islam please refer to the following link:
Daytime Dining in Abu Dhabi During Ramadan - 2015
For those of you visiting Abu Dhabi and not fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan, please find below a list of places where you can eat during the day.
Phone numbers have been included, so give them a call before you head out.
Abu Dhabi Island:
Jones the Grocer in Khalidiya. T; +971 2 6395883. Open daily 11.30am – 11pm.
Jones the Grocer in Mamoura building. T; +971 2 4438762. Open weekdays 9am – 11pm and weekends 10am – 11pm.
La Brioche (all locations). T; +971 2 6419811.
Leopolds of London (all locations). T; 600 560 602.
Living Room Café in Khalidiyah Village. T; +971 2 6396654.
Nolu’s Café in Galleria mall. T; +971 2 6441516. Open daily 11am – 4pm.
Third Place on the corniche (near Chevrolet). T; +971 2 6811877. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
Zuma in Galleria. T; +971 2 4015900. Open daily noon – 3pm.
Carluccio’s T; +971 2 6412231. Open daily 10am – 11pm.
Flooka T; +971 2 4418244. Open daily noon - 3pm.
Andiamo in Al Zeina. T; +971 2 5565775. Open daily 8am – 10pm.
Café 28 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. T; +971 2 5588990. Open daily 6am – midnight.
Cafe Firenze in Al Zeina. T; +971 2 5564643. Open daily 7am – 10pm.
Circle Café in Gardens Plaza, Al Raha Gardens. T; +971 2 5561550. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
Jones the Grocer at Gardens Plaza, Al Raha Gardens. T; +971 2 5574882. Open daily 11.30am – 10.30pm.
Jones the Grocer in Al Muneera. T; +971 2 6767141. Open daily 9am – 11pm.
Mondo Pizzeria at Abu Dhabi Country Club. T; +971 2 6577785. Open daily 10am – midnight.
Nandos in Al Zeina. T; +971 2 5558012. Open daily noon – 11.30pm.
Nolu’s Café in Al Bandar. T; +971 2 5579500. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
Saadiyat / Yas Islands
Fanr at Manarat Al Saadiyat. T; +971 2 6575888. Open daily 10am – 11pm.
Safina at Saadiyat Beach Club. T; +971 2 6563500. Open daily from 12noon.
Hickory’s at Yas Links Golf Club. T; +971 2 8107710. Open daily 9am – midnight.