DUBAI NEWS: Wow,…Saturday-Sunday Weekend first in history as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally switched to a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

  • Employees and schoolchildren juggle work and studies with weekly Muslim prayers on the first ever working Friday.
  • UAE made the surprise announcement of the Saturday-Sunday weekend switch for the public sector in December 2021.
  • Govt bodies and schools will operate four-and-a-half days per week, closing at 12pm on Fridays.

UAE switches to Saturday and Sunday Western Weekend Style

This new switch to Saturday-Sunday weekend was evident as employees and schoolchildren juggled work and studies with weekly Muslim prayers on the first-ever working Friday.

While some frowned at the change and businesses were split, many others quickly embraced the new Western-style weekend.

It is a known fact that the weekly day of prayer (Friday) has always been a free day in the UAE, which had previously observed a Thursday-Friday weekend until 2006.

However as usual, mosques appeared busy as worshippers carrying prayer mats arrived for prayers. However, many of them later headed back to the office after the prayers.

“I’d rather take (Friday) off,” said 22-year-old Briton Rachel King, who works in the hospitality industry and has been living in Dubai for six months.

“That is what we all know and love, having a Friday off and going to certain places that are open and we could do things. But now it is going to be Saturday.”

The United Arab Emirates made the surprise announcement of the weekend switch for the public sector in December as it grapples with rising competition in international business from other Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia her direct competitor in the region.

Following the new rules, and to bring equity, government bodies and schools will operate four-and-a-half days per week, closing at 12pm on Fridays for a fixed prayer time of 1:15pm, whereas the Muslim prayer schedule usually depends on the position of the sun.

However, out of 195 businesses polled by human resources consultancy Mercer, only 23% were willing to follow the four-and-a-half-day week, but more than half would switch to the new Saturday-Sunday weekends.

“Luckily I have the same days off as my kids, but that´s not the case for my husband,” said Fati, who works in an international distribution company, asking not to give her full name.

“He works for a multinational that hasn´t changed its schedule for the moment. I hope they will do it quickly, otherwise, our family life will be ruined.”

‘Feels a bit weird’

Nearly a third of companies are worried about the impact of being out of sync with other countries in the region, the Mercer poll found.

“We work a lot with Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” said Rana, an employee of an events company who said some of her teams would have to work on Sundays.

Dubai’s financial district was unusually quiet on Friday with large numbers working remotely, especially at a time of rising COVID levels when many children are also doing online schooling.

“Today is the first working Friday, it feels a bit weird,” said Ahmad Bilbisi, 34, a banking employee.

“It makes sense to me, at least for the banking industry. We are now working on the same day as everyone else in the world.”

The new arrangement was a major talking point on social media, with one Twitter user complaining “it just feels so wrong”.

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“My body and mind have fully acclimatised to having Fridays off. I think today is going to be a long hard struggle,” the tweet reads.

Sharjah, an emirate neighbouring Dubais neighbouring emirate, has found a simple solution to the puzzle: mandating Friday, Saturday and Sunday as a three-day weekend

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Saturday-Sunday Weekend: The UAE Formally Shifts To Sat-Sun Weekend, Works On Friday For First Time

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