United Arab Emirates: Free Sundays in the Persian Gulf

Status: Dec 27, 2021 11:24 a.m.

In many Arab countries, Friday and Saturday are the weekend. This is now changing in the UAE: Sunday will be free in the future. The country wants to become more attractive in this way.

Written by Miriam Staber, ARD Studio Cairo

Luxurious villas, tax benefits and year-round sun: The United Arab Emirates uses these attributes to attract so-called expats. These are the people who move to the Gulf country to work as professionals or businessmen. They make up a large part of the UAE population.

Many of them – like a journalist for the Emirati newspaper Khaleej Times – welcome the fact that Sunday will be part of the New Year’s weekend: “Personally, I find it quite annoying when I go back to Pakistan, where Sunday was the free day, everything It will be closed when I get there. So it will be a lot easier for me from now on. Fridays work won’t be a problem for me either because I’m used to it from Pakistan. I’m excited.”

Oil discoveries have brought wealth to the UAE over the past few decades. But oil reserves are limited, which is why the UAE is now trying to expand its economy. Postponing the weekend is one of the many fixes.

More opportunities in global competition

It should bring the country more international investment and better opportunities in global competition: “The government has been carefully analyzing this for months,” said Abdul Rahman Abdul Manan Al Awar, Minister of Personnel Development and Emiratisation. We have compared our options and calculated the impact on our business. Analysis of the economy showed that the weekend turnaround – especially in terms of our future strategy, will have a strong positive impact.”

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Most government employees will now have two and a half days off on the weekend: from Friday afternoon Islamic Friday prayers through Sunday. One emirate, Sharjah, has announced three full days of the weekend. Private businesses can decide for themselves if they want to go ahead with rescheduling the weekend. Much has already been announced about it, and they welcome the move, especially when they are working with international business partners. Sometimes there has to be a long lunch break on Friday for Islamic Friday prayers.

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The United Arab Emirates is the first Gulf country to adapt the weekend to the West. Even if other Muslim countries such as Turkey or Morocco have been practicing “Western weekend” for a long time, this move has been met with criticism in some Arab countries.

Ahmed Darwish, a former Egyptian minister, regrets the delay: “In the past, we Arabs grew up. Europe depended on us. For example, we were pioneers in scientific research and they benefited from us. But today, unfortunately, we are the addicts. Your financial markets and your companies are pioneers. We want to sell our products, we want to cooperate with them because that benefits our economy.”

A new weekend means a big change in daily life in the UAE. Mainly because the announcement came in so short a time, just less than four weeks ago, as one of the arrivals says on an Emirati programme: “At first it will be difficult to adapt, but I think we will get used to it. As with everyone else, change takes time. in life. But then I think we’ll enjoy our Saturday/Sunday weekend better.”

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