First, most restaurants are closed during the day.
Grocery stores stay open. Salons, gyms, retail shops – also open. However, not many people go out during the day. It’s hot and you can’t eat or drink in public. Not pleasant.
It’s interesting because in LA we are under a “Safer at Home” order and all non-essential businesses are closed through (at least) May 15th. When it started, LA felt like a ghost town. My first reaction was “LA feels like Dubai during Ramadan rn!”
Those restaurants that do remain open in Dubai are open for takeout only, and have black curtains covering the windows during the daytime. Also, most food courts stay open, but they erect barriers to maintain privacy:
For dinner, a lot of places have a special iftar buffet, and they’ll seat people right before dusk. They also place water and dates on the table (most people break their fast with water and dates).
Second– work life. My work hours were normally 10am-7pm. During Ramadan, they shortened the work day by 2 hours, so my hours were more like 11am-6pm. The canteen was still open, but we were encouraged to eat there and not bring food to our desks. I had water at my desk, sure, but I would try to drink it discreetly(!)
I think the idea is just to be mindful of people who are fasting, because going without food is one thing, but no water is clearly another. It’s rough!
Third- suhoors. A lot of people have heard of iftar, but not too many know what suhoor is.
Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal one eats to help last them through the day. Suhoors at Dubai restaurants usually start 10 or 11pm and last until 2, 3, or 4am. Every year, MBC Group held a really fancy suhoor at one of the nicer hotels like Atlantis, al Qasr, or the Westin. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural/traditional thing, but the nicer hotels would put up a tent for iftar and suhoor. When I say “tent” you may be imagining a camping tent or something like that…NO no no. The “tents” for iftar and suhoor were fully carpeted, A/C, posh decor….i.e. Asateer tent at Atlantis hotel:
That said, you definitely don’t have to go to suhoors and iftar dinners, especially if you aren’t even fasting, but they can be fun.
One thing to note, however, is that becoming a nocturnal animal is not something you adjust to overnight, so heavy iftars and suhoors may make you want to sleep all day. Going to bed around 3 or 4am and sleeping all day is not uncommon, esp. for people who can take time off during Ramadan. A lot of expats choose to use Ramadan to travel around, as work is generally slower during that month anyway.
If you do travel to Dubai during Ramadan, I think you’d still have fun (post-COVID). Just keep in mind that it’s usually quite hot during the day and there may not be as many things to do until dusk…it really comes alive at night. If you haven’t tried Khaleeji dates — they are good! Try some — during Ramadan they are especially plentiful.