National Holidays

Important dates in the Islamic calendar

National Holidays

Important dates in the Islamic calendar are the Prophet’s ascension ( Al Isr’a Wal Mairaj) and the Prophet’s birthday ( Maulid Al-Nabi), the start of Ramadan and the two ‘festival’ ( eid) holidays, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, which are observed as holidays in all the Gulf states except Saudi Arabia, where the two Eid holidays are the only official holidays, although some of the others might be observed by private institutions.

Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr normally last about a week. However, there’s generally a difference between the duration of holidays in the public and private sectors, government workers generally enjoying longer breaks than those in private enterprise (some things are the same in the Gulf as in the west!).

Islamic holidays are determined by lunar sightings but, whereas some Muslim countries use information derived from observatories, unaided observations are preferred in Saudi Arabia, which makes exact dates difficult to predict, as the moon may be obscured by cloud, 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 than usual traffic noise!


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



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

Further reading

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