What does Dubai’s 40 days of mourning mean for your holiday?

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President Sheikh Khalifa death, Dubai, UAE, UAE mourning period, UAE holidays, travel to Dubai - Jorg Greuel/Stone RF / Getty images
President Sheikh Khalifa death, Dubai, UAE, UAE mourning period, UAE holidays, travel to Dubai - Jorg Greuel/Stone RF / Getty images

Following the death of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE has entered a 40-day period of mourning.

May is the shoulder season for tourism in Dubai, with the pleasant winter weather edging its way up to the scorching temperatures of the summer months. Temperatures in May can reach 37°C and there won’t be a cloud in the sky, with 11 hours of sunshine per day.

So what does the 40 days of mourning mean for your next holiday? Here is everything you need to know if you have booked a trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or any of the other United Arab Emirates for the coming month.

What are the dates of the period of mourning?

The 40-day period of mourning started on May 13 and will last until June 22, 2022. A shorter, three-day period of work closures started on May 14 and will end on May 17.

What happens during the three-day period of closures?

The 40-day period of mourning begins as a three-day suspension of work in all ministries and in the private sector, starting on Saturday May 14. Workplaces have closed, as have schools, and weddings can go ahead but without any music. This means that shops are closed to tourists. However, hotels and restaurants remain open.

How will my holiday be affected during the three days of closures?

Restaurants and hotels cannot play live music or host entertainment events during the three days of mourning. There has also been a suspension of fireworks displays and celebrations.

What events have been cancelled?

The annual Abu Dhabi Culture Summit, which brings together leaders from the fields of media, technology, art and heritage, was due to take place from Monday May 16 to Wednesday May 18, but has now been postponed. Trevor Noah was due to be one of the guest speakers at the event. An evening light show in Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Watan quarter has also been cancelled, and Dubai’s Comedy Festival was postponed, but is set to resume tomorrow.

Will everything close during the first three days?

Not everything is closed during the three days of mourning. Theme parks, cultural attractions, tourism sites and theme parks remain open, although any live music or events that involve dancing will be put on hold until Tuesday.

What is the mood on the ground?

Sarah Hedley Hymers, Telegraph Travel’s destination expert based in Dubai, writes: “With the world’s tallest building named after him, Sheikh Khalifa leaves an unforgettable legacy of innovation and stability, and – despite an official 40-day period of mourning – visitors are as welcome as ever:

“Mourning began on May 14, with worshippers sharing prayers at mosques across the nation. The collective grief was evident in quieter-than-usual streets and cafes, particularly in Emirati-favoured neighbourhoods. Throughout the following 40 days, flags will fly at half-mast.”

“In the initial three days of mourning, offices have been closed and live music and entertainment has been paused across all hospitality outlets as a sign of respect. With events being either cancelled and postponed, rescheduling may impact the country’s entertainment calendar in the coming weeks, but hotels, bars and restaurants have remained open and continued to serve alcohol, though it would be bad taste to raise a toast to a departed Muslim leader.”

“From May 17, normal working hours will resume across both the public and private sector, and life’s volume will increase as live music and entertainment returns. For the visiting tourist, it will be business as usual, with all the attractions up and running.”

What happens for the remaining 37 days of mourning?

People will get back to work and schools will reopen, but the remaining period represents a time to pay respects. Flags will be raised at half-mast, radio stations will play classical music, state-owned television stations will dial down their entertainment offerings. Some official live entertainment events will be rescheduled.

Are other countries entering periods of mourning?

Other countries have also declared official periods of mourning. Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman will all observe periods of mourning, with state institutions closed for three days. Jordan has said it will observe 40 days of mourning, and India announced a one-day state mourning on Saturday, cancelling all official entertainment events.

What is the Foreign Office advice?

The Foreign Office has updated its advice for the United Arab Emirates. The FCDO page reads: “Following the death of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, the country is observing a period of mourning until 22 June. Residents and visitors to the UAE should show respect during this time. As a mark of respect, the British Embassy offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will be closed from 13 May to 16 May and re-open on 17 May 2022.”

What should you do if you require urgent assistance?

If, for any reason, you require urgent assistance during the UAE’s 40-day period of mourning, the Foreign Office advises to call the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi on 02 610 1100 or the British Embassy in Dubai on 04 309 4444

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