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Arafat Day

Arafat Day 2017 and 2018

Arafat Day is the second day of the week-long Hajj pilgrimage that many Muslims from UAE and elsewhere go on every year.

YearDateDayHoliday
201731 AugThuArafat (Haj) Day *
201820 AugMonArafat (Haj) Day *

* Subject to changes.

Hajj runs from the 8th to the 12th or 13th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul Hijja, the final month of the Islamic year. Arafat Day occurs on the 9th day of Dhul Hijja, just about 70 days after the end of Ramadan. The day immediately following Arafat Day is the first of three to four consecutive festival days known as “Eid Ul Adha.”

As Hajj begins, thousands of people in UAE, and elsewhere in the Islamic world, will assemble and march in “pilgrimage processions.” Ultimately, the destination is Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest city. The events of Hajj and of Arafat day, therefore, take place outside of UAE, though numerous Emirati citizens are involved. In Mecca, various rituals are performed, including circling the “black box” known as the Kaaba, which contains a meteorite (black stone) thought to have been placed there by the angel Gabriel. On Arafat Day, hundreds of thousands gather on the hill called Mount Arafat and the plain it overlooks. This is the site where, it is believed, Muhammad gave his “farewell address” near the end of his life. In the sermon, he declared that the religion of Islam was now perfected, and this statement became a very famous verse of the Koran. The pilgrims hold a vigil on Mount Arafat, standing there all night long, praying, and reading the Koran. Later, they symbolically stone the Devil by casting stones at three pillars, shave their heads, and offer animal sacrifices.

The sacrifices are offered during Eid Al Adha, and standing on Mount Arafat and sacrificing animals are both thought to expiate sins of the past year. Goats are normally offered and divided into three sections: one for the family, on for relatives, and one to be given to the poor. Performing Hajj in Mecca is one of the Five Pillars of Islam that all are expected to do once in their life if they are financially capable.

Islamic beliefs concerning Abraham, besides those about Muhammad, are part of the background of Arafat Day. The Bible, Jews, and Christians maintain that Isaac was nearly sacrificed by Abraham in obedience to God’s command, but the Koran and Muslims say it was Ishmael who lay on the altar. The Eid Al Adha commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael. It is also taught that Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaabah and instituted the practice of pilgrimages to Mecca.

In the UAE, Arafat Day and Eid Al Adha are public holidays, and people often have as much as a full week off work during this time period. Those who can’t go on pilgrimage will instead attend mosque, fast, and offer extra prayers at home. Travel will be hectic during this time period, as thousands make their ways to and from Mecca, and many businesses will be closed. However, some things expatriates in UAE might consider around the time of Arafat Day in UAE include:

  • View Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. If you are a Muslim visitor, you may be interested to know that a huge crowd will gather here for prayer and Koran readings during the festivities. However, at an appropriate time, others may still wish to view the impressive architecture, which is very reminiscent of the Taj Mahal in India, and tour the library and any other rooms where tourists are allowed to enter.
  • Visit the Dubai Museum. This museum acquaints you with the history and archaeology of Dubai and is located inside of the historically important Al Fahidi Fort. Hundreds of thousands of visitors peruse the numerous exhibits annually, and there is much to see worth seeing.
  • Relax at Al Ain Oasis. This is the largest oasis in the UAE, and uses the ancient “falaj” irrigation system, which transports water via underground tunnels. The shady palm trees and the interesting structures traversing the grounds make it well worth a visit.

There may be a solemnity in the air as Muslims celebrate the season. Muslim tourist can, of course, partake of the exercises at the mosques. The rest, however, will have to find other activities to be engaged in, such as listed above.