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



The United Arab Emirates made a surprise announcement of a weekend switch to the public sector in December


Employees and school children combined work and studies with weekly Muslim prayers on Friday, the first time in the UAE as the Gulf country formally turned into a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

Some grumbled over the change and businesses were divided, with many moving to Western-style weekends, but other private firms sticking with Fridays and Saturdays, as is the case in other Gulf states.

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

Mosques, however, appeared busy as people offering prayers arrived as usual before many of them went back to the office later.

“I would love to take a break (Friday),” said 22-year-old Briton Rachel King, who has worked in the hospitality industry and has been living in Dubai for six months.

“That’s what we all know and love, Friday is a holiday and going to some places that are open and we can do things. But now it’s going to be Saturday.”

The United Arab Emirates made a surprise announcement of a weekend switch to the public sector in December as it grapples with increasing competition in international trade from other Gulf countries, notably Saudi Arabia.

Government bodies and schools will operate four-and-a-half days per week, closing at 1:15 a.m. on Friday at 12 noon with a fixed prayer time, while Muslim prayer schedules usually depend on the position of the sun.

Of the 195 businesses surveyed by human resources consultancy Mercer, only 23 percent were preparing to follow a four-and-a-half-day week, but more than half moved to a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

“Luckily I have the same days as my kids, but not so much for my husband,” said Fati, who works at an international distribution company, who did not wish to be named.

“He works for a multinational company which has not changed its schedule at the moment. I hope they do it soon, otherwise our family life will be ruined.”

‘Feels a little weird’

The Mercer poll found that nearly a third of companies are concerned about the impact of harmonizing with other countries in the region.

“We work with Egypt and Saudi Arabia a lot,” said Rana, an employee of an events company that said some of its 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 were also schooling online.

“Today is the first working Friday, it feels a little strange,” said 34-year-old Ahmed Bilbisi, a banking employee.

“It makes sense to me, at least for the banking industry. Now we’re working on the same day as everyone else in the world.”

The new arrangement was the subject of a major discussion on social media, with one Twitter user complaining “it just feels so wrong”.

The tweet read, “My body and mind are completely used to the Friday holiday. I feel like today is going to be a long hard struggle.”

Dubai’s neighboring emirate, Sharjah, has found a simple solution: making Friday, Saturday and Sunday mandatory as three-day weekends.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)