The UAE follows the same Gregorian calendar most of the world does but there is influence by the Hijri, or Islamic, calendar.
The UAE observes a number of static public holidays. National Day, to celebrate everything UAE, is the 2nd December. This is the date the union of the 6 original emirates was agreed and signed, and in 2011 one of Dubai’s busier streets was renamed to commemorate the day. A few days before the UAE marks Commemoration Day, created to honour members of the military and their families.
On the 3rd November the UAE celebrates Flag Day, created to mark the ascension of the current President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Many residents chose to leave flags on display for the entire month; meaning by the time National Day occurs the UAE has enjoyed a colourful and extended festive period.
Non-traditional holidays, like Diwali and Christmas, are observed by many, but are not official public holidays.
The Hijri calendar follows a 354/355 day year rather than the 365 day year. As the majority of UAE public holidays are based on historic Islamic events, public holidays ‘move’ by ten days each year.
As a consequence, the most notable event in the Hijri calendar Ramadan (a month of sacrifice and giving), moves forward each year. This means that the general slowdown in business activity (in part due to mandated shorter working hours), increases or decreases depending on the month Ramadan occurs. Ramadan in the summer often causes a longer slowdown as it juxtaposes holidays and high temperatures. Ramadan during winter months hardly affects business at all.
In total there are approximately 15 days given to public holidays in the UAE but not all are marked by days off work. Eid al-Adha, at the end of Ramadan, is usually a three day holiday for the public and private sectors, whereas the day marking the first day of the Hijri calendar (Islamic New Year) isn’t a public holiday (January 1st is however).
Hijri events are based the lunar calendar rather than set to a specific date, so dates, even though they are predicted, are never confirmed until official sources announce them. Public holidays are usually confirmed a week before the day itself and due to the small amount of unpredictability involved, are often met with an amount of excitement. Imagine if you weren’t sure if May Day was due to start on May 1st but there was a risk it could occur during the weekend. When May Day got announced and it meant a long weekend, you’d be excited too!