Ramadan is one of the most significant periods in Muslim culture. It lasts one month and is accompanied by fasting and prayers. This period affects the lives of both local residents and expats – the opening hours of shopping and entertainment venues, as well as government agencies are reduced, and certain restrictions on eating and drinking in public places are being introduced.
According to popular belief, Ramadan is a period of sharp declines in property sales. But as stated by Lukman Hajje, the commercial director of Propertyfinder Group, the volume of online searches for housing during this period suggests the opposite, as during this period a majority of travel agencies offer significant discounts on visiting the country.
Next, we will look at special aspects of Ramadan in the UAE and its impact on local real estate sales.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar during of which believers are required to fast. During this period, Muslims should refrain from eating and drinking, smoking and intimacy during the daytime. After sunset, the fast is interrupted and starts again at dawn.
During the last 10 days of Ramadan, believers pray most earnestly. Many Muslims want to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad and retire to the mosque for all 10 days.
The duration of Ramadan is 29-30 days. Its beginning and end are determined according to the Islamic lunar calendar, which does not coincide with the Gregorian one. Every year, the day of the beginning of the holy month is shifted by 11 days. The exact date must be confirmed by the moonsighting committee.
In 2021, the month of Ramadan in the UAE begins after sunset on April 12, the first day of fasting falls on April 13 and ends on May 12 or May 13, the precise date will still be announced by the moonsighting committee.
It is believed that it was during this period that the Prophet Mohammed began to comprehend Islam. Tourists and expats who are the UAE residents are responsible for ensuring that believers are able to fast. Foreigners do not have to adhere to all Ramadan requirements, but they must show respect for local traditions.
According to the article 331 paragraph A of the UAE Criminal Code, public consumption of food, drinks, smoking or other actions that violate the fast of Ramadan are punishable by a fine of up to AED 2000 (USD 545) or arrest for up to 30 days. Balconies and cars in the parking lot are equated to public places as well. Chewing gum and listening to music loudly in public is also considered unacceptable.
The requirements for fasting in Ramadan do not apply to children under 6 years of age. Children aged 7-12 can fast for limited periods of time. In the UAE, children who have reached the age of 12 are required to comply with all the rules of Ramadan on an equal basis with adults.
The following groups of individuals are exempt from fasting:
In addition to all of the above, expats also have to meet the standards of appearance. Adults should be dressed neatly and conservatively. Legs and arms should be covered. Appearance in public places in swimsuits, tight or low-cut clothing is prohibited. Adults in public have to behave with restraint and avoid kissing, hugging, and shaking hands in public. Ramadan is a time of peace and repentance, so try to avoid harsh words and gestures.
Every day, fasting is interrupted by iftar and evening prayer. Since 1960, the cannon firing have been used to notify believers about the coming of Iftar. For these purposes, five cannons have been installed in Dubai. This year they are to be found in the following locations: the prayer ground in Al Mankhool, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis the Palm, Al Salam Masjid in Al Barsha, Al Habbai Mosque in Al Khawaneej and Al Mamzar Beach. In Abu Dhabi, the cannon firing is also used to call for evening prayer. The cannons are installed at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
During Ramadan, there has been a noticeable decline in property values in all emirates. In 2021, Dubai developers are offering discounts on property purchases during the Holy Month of up to 20%. Azizi Developments was the first among Dubai developers to offer a set of discounts for Ramadan. During this period, starting prices were reduced for their projects, such as Al Furjan, Dubai Healthcare City and MBR City. At the same time, the developer guarantees a return on investment of 10% for the first three years. Depending on the location, the average cost of the Azizi property is AED 373 000 – AED 573 000 (USD 102 000 – USD 156 000).
The spokesman of Azizi Developments, Tizian Raab stated that the average daily sales almost tripled since April 12 thanks to holiday discounts and a 10% ROI guarantee.
Over the past 12-24 months, the demand for off-plan real estate in the UAE has declined. Investors fear an oversupply, construction delays and price surges, therefore, they prefer finished projects. Such promotions will help to change the state of affairs.
The lion’s share of Dubai’s off-plan property was purchased with a payment plan from a developer. Despite the pandemic, the amount of overdue payments was negligible. This situation is happening largely due to the fact that a major share of funds must be transferred after the property is commissioned. Many developers try to ease the debt burden of buyers as much as possible. Some of them postponed payments on an individual basis for the period of Ramadan. The Islamic Bank of Abu Dhabi announced that it also intends to grant deferred payments on mortgage loans to individuals.
As for the secondary real estate market, the cost of housing also continues to decline. According to the head of the research department of the consulting company Core, Prathyusha Gurrapu, in the first quarter of 2021 the cost of housing in the secondary market decreased by 1% compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. On the other hand, prices for villas increased by 3%.
During Ramadan, there is a decline in the value of rental properties. This applies to both private apartments and resorts or hotels. Due to domestic restrictions, the number of foreigners wishing to visit the UAE is noticeably decreasing.
There is a widespread belief that the volume of real estate transactions decreases during Ramadan. According to David Godchaux, the CEO of Core, the reason of this tendency is the seasonality of the local real estate market. Over the past seven years, Ramadan has fallen on the hot summer months, when the influx of investors has been reduced due to unfavorable weather conditions. The following factors affect the real estate market conditions:
In accordance with Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 on the regulation of labor relations, the working hours of all representatives of the private sector during this period will be reduced by two hours. All government agencies also have shorter workdays.
School days in local educational establishments will start later and end earlier. As a rule, the end of the school day occurs no later than 18:00. The exact opening hours are set by each school on an individual basis. Working time for playrooms and kindergartens can also be reduced.
Opening hours of stores may vary considerably. They are usually open from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 18:30 to 0:00. This trend does not apply to large supermarkets and shopping centers, many of them are open 24/7. To avoid unfair trade, the UAE Ministry of Economy announced a freeze on price increases for all commodities. Hashim Al Nuaimi, the director of the Abu Dhabi Department of Competitiveness and Consumer Protection, said the emirate’s stores had agreed to introduce 50-90% discounts on essential goods.
Over the past two years, the rules for conducting Ramadan for foreigners have noticeably relaxed. Contrary to expectations, some catering establishments remain open during the day and are ready to receive foreigners. While two years ago the owners had to obtain the appropriate license and screen the windows, now these requirements have been abolished. According to a circular from the Dubai Economic Development Department of April 11, 2021, restaurants in the emirate do not have to screen dining areas. Similar changes were made to Abu Dhabi. On April 6, 2021, the Emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism authorized tourism and hospitality establishments to provide catering services to foreigners during Ramadan without installation of screens and partitions. All the rules and restrictions described above do not apply to closed resorts. They continue their work as usual.
After the onset of Iftar, the number of people wishing to get to cafes and restaurants increases significantly, so it is advisable to book places in advance. Also at this time there is high traffic, which can result in roadblocks.
During Iftar, many restaurants and hotels organize grand buffets and dining tents. For example, in Dubai, such buffets are set in Atlantis, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Al Bustan Rotana, Anantara Dubai the Palm Resort & Spa, The Palm, Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City and Four Points by Sheraton every year.
The exact time of the onset of Iftar varies depending on the specific city. It always happens at sunset. Iftar is open to both Muslims and tourists. It is important to ensure that fasting Muslims start the evening meal first.
The sale of alcohol in city bars starts only after Iftar. If you are in a closed resort, you can buy it during the day. But it is considered unacceptable to appear on the street in a state of alcohol intoxication.
Be prepared for the fact that mosques that are open to foreigners may be closed for visits during Ramadan or work on an abridged program. The opening hours of beaches and parks often remain unchanged. As for tourist attractions, they switch to half-days with a long break in the middle of the day.
The holy month ends with the celebration called Eid al-Fitr, which is a public holiday in the UAE and lasts three days. During this period, Muslims prepare feast meals, visit relatives, and present gifts. An integral part of the celebration is charity and helping those in need. During Eid al-Fitr, all government departments are closed for a period of three to seven days.
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