What day is it? UAE working on Friday for the first time


UAE made surprise announcement of weekend change for public sector in December


Employees and school children juggled work and study with weekly Muslim prayers on the UAE’s very first working Friday as the Gulf country officially transitioned to a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

Some have complained about the change and businesses have been divided, with many moving to weekends Western-style, but other private businesses sticking to Fridays and Saturdays, as in other Gulf states.

The weekly prayer day has always been a free day in the United Arab Emirates, which previously observed a Thursday-Friday weekend until 2006.

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However, mosques appeared busy as worshipers wearing prayer rugs arrived as usual, before many later returned to the office.

“I’d rather go (Friday),” said Briton Rachel King, 22, who works in the hospitality industry and has lived in Dubai for six months.

“That’s what we all know and love, to have a Friday off and go to some places open and we could do things. But now it’s going to be Saturday.”

The UAE made the surprise announcement of the weekend change for the public sector in December as it grapples with growing competition in international affairs from other Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia .

Government agencies and schools will operate four and a half days a week, closing at noon on Friday for a fixed prayer time of 1:15 p.m., while the Muslim prayer time generally depends on the position of the sun.

Of 195 companies surveyed by human resources consulting firm Mercer, only 23% were preparing for the four-and-a-half-day week, but more than half would switch to weekends from Saturday to Sunday.

“Fortunately, I have the same days off as my kids, but my husband doesn’t,” said Fati, who works at an international distribution company, asking not to give his full name.

“He works for a multinational which has not changed its schedule yet. I hope they will do it quickly, otherwise our family life will be ruined.”

‘It’s a little weird’

Nearly a third of companies are worried about the impact of a lag with other countries in the region, according to the Mercer poll.

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

Dubai’s financial district was exceptionally quiet on Friday with large numbers of people working remotely, especially at a time when Covid levels are rising, when many children are also enrolled in online schooling.

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

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

The new arrangement was a major topic of discussion on social media, with one Twitter user complaining about “it hurts so much.”

“My body and mind have completely acclimated to Free Friday. I think today is going to be a long, hard struggle,” the tweet read.

Sharjah, an emirate neighboring Dubai, found a simple solution: make Friday, Saturday and Sunday a three-day weekend.

(This story was not edited by UK Time News on Social Platforms.)