Holidays, Festivals and Ramadan in Oman

Holidays and weekends differ fundamentally from European-Christian customs.

The Omani weekend is occurs on Friday and Saturday of the western calendar. The Arabic sabbath day falls on Friday. Authorities and also most state-run museums or fortresses are closed on Friday.

The only non-religious holiday is National Day, which is always celebrated on the 18th and 19th of November (and even a few days after). In the days immediately prior, the street lights, motorway embankments, houses and souk alleys, expensive cars and simple pick-up trucks are decorated with the white-red-green colors of the national flag and elaborately adorned with appropriately colored strings of lights. Omanis love their ruler -- who has done so much for the country -- and celebrate the national holiday and the achievements of prosperity and peace of the last decades in genuine joyfulness and gratitude. Honking motorcades and spontaneous celebrations in the middle of the highway -- and the corresponding traffic chaos -- are to be expected in any case. Travelers who spend the day in Oman can only be advised: Get into the swing of things and join the crowd. Buy a flag to wave. After all, Oman's clever politics, conditioned by its culture, is in many regards worthy of praise.

All other festivals and holidays are of religious origin and therefore bound to the Islamic calendar.

The Islamic calendar is based on the only 354/355 day lunar year and therefore shifts about 11 days "forward" every year compared to the European calendar. A lunar month has 29 or 30 days.

The Islamic era began with the emigration (hegira) of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Yatrib-Medina on July 15 or 16 of the year 622 CE. To convert hegira years into Christian or Gregorian the following formula applies: Islamic date minus 1/34, plus 622 (beginning of the Islamic era) = year of the Christian era.

Birthday of the Prophet, a holiday on the 12th of Rabi'al-awal
Leilat al-Meiraj, the Ascension of the Prophet, a holiday on the 27th of Radjah
Id al-Fitr, four holidays starting on the 1st of Shewal, at the end of Ramadan
Ramadan, the month of fasting
Id al-Adha, five holidays starting on the 9th of Dhu-l-Hiddia, a traditional time of reflection and the pilgrimage to Mecca (hadj) in the last month of the Islamic calendar year
New Year, a holiday on the 1st of Muharram

Traveling during Ramadan: During the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, it is forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public from sunrise to sunset. This does not apply to the sick, or travelers, nor to children under the age of twelve. The whole country is a non-alcoholic zone during this time, including the hotels and minibars in the hotel rooms. Although the restaurants of the big hotels will not serve alcohol at this time, they are open during the day for hungry non-Muslims, as are also many grocery stores. Opening hours may also be shifted.

Ramadan also offers certain advantages and a visit during this time is a special experience, especially in the evening. The mood in Ramadan is particularly nice when the locals meet at sunset to break their fast. For example, in front of small shops, a picnic blanket is laid out and dates and coffee stand at the ready until the "go-ahead" for the meal is given. Shops close for a short spell to allow everyone to participate in this little ceremony. The mood in the country as a whole is literally "inspired" by this month devoted to religion.

The exact beginning of the fasting month and the holidays depends on the local lunar observation and is therefore only announced at short notice. Due to its location on the easternmost edge of the Arabian Peninsula, these Oman holidays are often one day later than in the rest of the Arab world.

► For dates refer to the Travel Infos A to Z

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