As a tourist to Abu Dhabi, particularly if you come from a non-Muslim background, you may be curious to understand more about Muslim prayer times in Abu Dhabi; When do they happen? What happens during prayer time? And is there anything you need to do or observe as a tourist?
As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Muslims must perform Salat (prayer) five times a day. Islam is the official religion of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates so it is something you are bound to come across during your time in the country, be it hearing the call to prayer or seeing the signs for prayer rooms in the mall, or even the arrow on the roof of your hotel bedroom!
We’re here to help guide you through what prayer time in Abu Dhabi is all about.
- You can learn more about Visas, religion and the local customs of Abu Dhabi here
- You can learn more about the most beautiful mosques of the UAE here
How many times do Muslims pray each day?
Salat (or prayers) are performed at the following times every day:
- Fajr: dawn prayer
- Dhuhr: midday prayer
- Asr: late afternoon prayer
- Maghrib: sunset prayer
- Isha: evening prayer
Prayer times vary around the world as they are calculated based on the position of the sun. At each prayer time a set number of “rakat” or “rak’ah” – prescribed movements and words must be performed – more below.
What are the prayer times in Abu Dhabi today?
The “Call to Prayer”
The prayer times, as detailed above, are made known by a Muezzin (caller) where “Adhan” is recited, usually from loudspeakers in a mosque. You will likely hear the call to prayer from most places in the city.
“Iqamah”, the internal call for prayer, is performed 20 minutes after Adhan (25 minutes after Fajr and 5 minutes after Maghrib) to establish that prayers are about to start.
Midday prayers on a Friday (“Jumu’ah”) are of particular importance as they are congregational prayers.
(NB When the weekend in the UAE changed to 2.5 days – from Midday on a Friday to Sunday, Friday prayers (dhuhr) were moved to 1.15 PM)
How are Muslim prayers performed?
All of these prayers are recited while facing “Qibla”- the direction of Kaaba, the sacred mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Muslims must wash before prayer in a procedure called “wudu”- purification. The prayer then involves a series of “rakats” – set positions, and at every change in positions “ Allah is Great” is said.
It is preferred that the prayers are performed in a mosque to allow for fellowship, but they may be performed anywhere. Men and women perform their prayers separately.
** That little arrow on your hotel roof is pointed towards Mecca!
Non-Muslim behaviour during prayer time
There is no need for tourists to change their behaviour during prayer times. However, shops and restaurants are asked to cease music and entertainment during the call to prayer and until prayer time is over.
Some smaller shops may close briefly during these times, but generally speaking, in large malls and in hospitality businesses, you will not experience store closures.
Other religious observances in Abu Dhabi
Religious holidays in Abu Dhabi follow the Hijri Calendar, which varies from the Gregorian calendar by approximately 10 days each year, as it is subject to moon cycles. You can read more about Abu Dhabi religious & public holidays here.
This is a complete list of observances on the Hijri Calendar this year and how they correlate to the Gregorian Calendar.
The most important one for visitors to be aware of is the Holy Month of Ramadan. During this time, there are strict observances to be aware of, including daytime fasting.
You can learn more about what to expect in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan here.
Unlike neighbouring Dubai, Abu Dhabi no longer cuts alcohol service on the main religious holidays. As a visitor, there is little you need to observe on these days.
Can you visit a Mosque in Abu Dhabi?
The main mosque open to visitors in the United Arab Emirates is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful and iconic landmark. If you’d like to learn more about the building’s importance and religion, it’s essential to turn up for one of the timed tours (free).
You can learn more about visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque here.
If you’d like to explore mosques more widely around the Emirates, check out this guide.
Visitors without access to their own car may find it handy to join a day tour (group or private) where you can visit several of the city’s main cultural sites with your own guide.
What are the Five Pillars of Islam?
As we mentioned, prayer is only one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In their entirety, these are:
- Shahadah: to profess that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet
- Salat: to pray five times a day
- Zakat: To pay alms to the needy and poor
- Sawm: to fast during the holy month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar/Hijri calendar)
- Hajj: to do the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca at least once during the Muslims’ lifetime, if they can
Read more on Islam and customs to be aware of in Abu Dhabi here
We hope you will get to observe the beautiful cultural experience on the Call to Prayer and learn more about the Islamic religion during your trip to Abu Dhabi.
If you are extending your trip onward to Dubai, make sure you drop into the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), found in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood – learn more here.
Before you go… Important things to consider planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack as well as top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Check the most up-to-date COVID entry rules for Abu Dhabi.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
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