The sky is the limit when it comes to celebrating Ramadan in Dubai. From breaking the daily fast with the locals to an iftar on a private jet, the options are astounding. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time to abstain from food and water during daylight hours in order to better appreciate the plight of those less fortunate; to give to charity; to prayer and get closer to Allah. Lasting 30 days, it’s also a time to reconnect with family and friends with the nightly breaking of the fast, a meal known as ‘iftar’. Non-Muslims in Dubai can discover a lot about local customs during Ramadan and partake in iftars – everyone is welcome.
Meet the Locals in Dubai
With the motto ‘open doors, open minds’, the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) has been breaking down cultural barriers from its historic Al Fahidi home since 1998.
Cultural Presenter Meera Al Falasi is a volunteer at the centre, hosting programmes and guests keen to learn about her Emirati heritage.
“We have different programmes, including cultural meals programmes,” says Meera. “Throughout all of those programmes, we focus on an open conversation. We know that a lot of people have different questions for Emiratis, and we try to create a very open environment where anyone can ask whatever questions they have.”
During Ramadan, the SMCCU runs special iftar programmes, giving guests a guided tour of a neighbourhood mosque and sharing a traditional household iftar.
Enjoy a Classic Dubai Iftar
Iftars in hotels and restaurants can be rather lavish affairs – like Christmas dinner for Christians. Samad Al Iraqi, in the heart of Jumeirah, is an especially popular iftar spot for Muslim and non-Muslim families alike.
Its classic Dubai iftar begins with dates – a fast source of energy, ideal as a pick-me-up at the end of the daily fast. The centrepiece of the banquet is lamb, representing the sacrificial animal slaughtered in place of Prophet Abraham’s son after he offered up the child to Allah – the ultimate sacrifice. Another Middle Eastern classic, kunafa – layers of crunchy syrup-soaked dough and stringy cheese – tops the most popular dessert options.
The food is delicious, but that’s not the sole focus says restaurant partner Moe Alhaj: “Spending time with people you love and breaking fasts with family and friends – having that journey day-to-day for 30 days – that's very special with today's world, how busy we are. It's something that brings us all together.”
Try an Iftar in the Sky
Those looking for non-traditional iftars will find that Dubai can accommodate all tastes; high-fliers can even break their fast in the clouds. Hosted by private jet terminal Jetex, ‘Iftar in the Sky’ allows passengers to break their fast while flying over the UAE in a private airplane.
“This is the world's first experience of this kind for Ramadan,” explains Jetex’s Oleg Kafarov, who developed the experience for those who have never flown by private jet before and for those who, because of the pandemic, miss flying.
“We invite our passengers – up to six passengers – to join us on a flight across the country where we see landmarks of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates,” says Oleg. “At sunset, this is the best light. We have fantastic cuisine; we have a chef onboard and we have our crew looking after the passengers. This is a joyful experience for those who miss travelling.”
The luxurious airport also offers guests personalised coffee, a complimentary caviar bar and piano performances on arrival. Iftar in the Sky costs AED 66,000 (€15,100) for six people and 10% of the cost is donated to local charity Dubai Cares.