The UAE is four hours ahead of UTC (Universal Coordinated Time – formerly known as GMT). Clocks are not altered for daylight saving in the summer, so when Europe and North America gain an hour, the time in the UAE stays the same.
Social & Business Hours, Weekends
Working hours differ greatly in the UAE, with much of the private sector working a straight shift (usually from 08:00 to 17:00 or 09:00 to 18:00, with an hour for lunch), while a minority work a split shift (working from 09:00 to 13:00, then taking a long lunch break before returning to work from 16:00 to 19:00).
The majority of larger shops and shopping centres are open throughout the day and into the evening, generally closing at 22:00 or midnight. Traditional shops and smaller street traders often operate under split shift timings, closing for three or four hours in the afternoon. Some food outlets and petrol stations are open 24 hours a day.
Friday is the Islamic holy day and therefore a universal day off for offices and schools; most companies and schools have a two-day weekend over Friday and Saturday. Consumer demand means that the hospitality and retail industries are open seven days a week.
Some holidays are based on the sighting of the moon and are likely to be confirmed less than 24 hours in advance. Most companies send an email to employees the day before, notifying them of the confirmed holiday date.
The public sector often gets additional days off for holidays where the private sector may not (for example on National Day the public sector gets two days of official holiday, whereas private sector companies take only one day). This can be a problem for working parents, as even private schools fall under the public sector and therefore get the extended holidays, so your children will usually have more days off than you do.
Public Holidays 2013
1 January (fixed) - New Year's Day
24 January (based on moon sighting) - Prophet Mohammed's Birthday
6 June (based on moon sighting) - Ascension of the Prophet
14 July (based on moon sighting) - Ramadan
14 August (based on moon sighting) - Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
14 October (based on moon sighting) - Arafat (Haj)
15 October (based on moon sighting) - Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
5 November (based on moon sighting) -Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year's Day)
2 December (fixed) UAE National Day
According to the labour laws, all companies are obliged to shorten the working day by two hours during Ramadan. Even though this is to assist Muslim employees who are fasting, the law makes no distinction in this regard between Muslim and non-Muslim employees. So technically, even expats are entitled to a shorter working day. However, many international companies do not follow this principle, and labour lawyers would advise you not to make a fuss if you are not given a shorter working day.