National Holidays

Important dates in the Islamic calendar

National Holidays

There are quite a few important dates in the Islamic calendar such as the Prophet's Ascension (Al Isr'a Wal Mairaj,) the Prophet's Birthday (Maulid Al-Nabi,) the start of Ramadan and the two 'festival' (eid) holidays. Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha are observed as holidays in all the Gulf states except Saudi Arabia - where only the two Eid holidays are official. Some of the other festivals might be observed by private institutions.

Eid Al-Adha normally lasts two or three days and Eid Al-Fitr four or five days, except in Saudi Arabia, where each holiday usually lasts around a week. However, there’s generally a difference between the duration of holidays in the public and private sectors. Government workers generally enjoy longer breaks than those in private enterprise (some things are the same in the Gulf as in the west!). Another holiday called Ashura, which commemorates the death in battle of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Husain, is observed in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

Islamic holidays are determined by lunar sightings but, whereas some Muslim countries use information derived from observatories, unaided observations are preferred in Kuwait, which makes exact dates difficult to predict, as the moon may be obscured by clouds, for example. There’s also a complicated conversion to be made from the Islamic to the Gregorian calendar. The dates shown below are therefore approximate, and the only way to be sure that a holiday has begun is to hear the gun that’s traditionally fired on such occasions, to hear an announcement on the local radio or to wake to hear less traffic noise than usual!


Date (Islamic calendar)

Approx. Date (Gregorian calendar)

Eid Al-Adha

10 Dhul-Hijah

Jan - Feb

Muslim New Year

1 Muharram

Feb - March


10 Muharram

Feb - March

Prophet’s birthday

12 Rabi II

April - May

Prophet’s ascension

27 Rajab



1 Ramadan


Eid Al-Fitr

1 Shawaal


New Year’s Day


1st January

National Day


2nd December

Christmas Day


25th December


Note that a National ‘Day’ usually lasts two or three days!

Further reading

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