Although many of the UAE's entertainment hangouts and restaurants close during Ramadan, that doesn't mean you have to spend those 30 days at home in front of the telly.
In fact, the Muslim month of fasting offers Muslims and non-Muslims the opportunity to explore the other side of the country that usually goes unnoticed amid all the concerts, parties and social events. And that's traditional Arabian hospitality.
But apart from the endless iftars that are available daily throughout the holy month, one of the biggest highlights in the region is the opening of the annual Ramadan tents.
Usually visited during sohour – which is after iftar time, and starts from around 9pm – friends and families gather to watch Ramadan television shows, enjoy shisha and Arabic delicacies, and play backgammon and cards.
Basically, a Ramadan tent is the best place to get up close with the Arabic culture.
"Ramadan tents are very popular in the UAE as they become a venue for friends, families and loved ones to gather," Anoushka Misra, Cluster PR Manager of Hilton Dubai Jumeirah and Hilton Dubai Creek tells Emirates Business. "And because Ramadan has fallen in September this year, and temperatures still haven't cooled yet, the tents also serve as a welcome respite from the heat." Without a doubt Ramadan is also a profitable time for those involved in business.
Misra continues: "Ramadan tents are a great addition to our hotels' menu. This year we invested in a beautiful large contemporary Arabian tent and are getting a lot of business from groups, walk-ins as well as in-house guests due to our ideal positioning by the beach and with picturesque views of the Arabian Gulf."
May El Souki, Director of Marketing, Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa, agrees. "Ramadan tents are great attractions to residents and guests, and contribute greatly to the hotel's revenue during that period," she says.
If you are yet to venture out this year, and experience some classic Ramadan evenings, Emirates Business brings you ten of the best – in no particular order – tents to check out this year.
1. RAFFLES DUBAI Featuring an interior accentuated with hand-carved Egyptian columns, this Ramadan hangout is definitely a tent with a twist.
Raffles Dubai's Raffles Salon is an ideal retreat for informal gatherings, as well as to conduct meetings with associates and business partners.
A selection of juices, coffee and soft drinks, as well as Arabic sweets, dates and pastries, are available throughout sohour.
Location: Oud Metha
Price: From Dh35
Call: 04 314 9888
2. LE MÉRIDIEN AL AQAH BEACH RESORT, FUJAIRAH
If you fancy escaping to the East Coast for a weekend, then Le Méridien Al Aqah's Layali Al Aqah tent is the perfect destination for a late night sohour.
With the Hajar Mountains and beach providing a breathtaking backdrop, Layali Al Aqah specialises in traditional Arabic delicacies, such as puff pastry filled with cream, fruits and nuts, as well as Arabic dishes such as hummous, foul medames, and balila. Plenty of Arabic entertainment is also on offer with oud music, as well as giant screens showing the latest Arabic TV shows.
Location: Dibba Road
Price: From Dh55
Call: 09 244 9000
3. AL RAHA BEACH HOTEL, ABU DHABI
The capital features plenty of Ramadan tents, and Al Raha's Al Sukaria tent is one of the nicest.
Set in the landscaped gardens of the hotel, here you can enjoy Arabic Ramadan delicacies, as well as traditional drinks and shisha.
If you want to go corporate for the night, groups can be accommodated, with the option of dining in one the private suites.
Location: Channel Street
Price: Dh85 per person
Call: 02 508 0555
4. JUMIERAH BEACH HOTEL, DUBAI
What sets the Jumeirah Beach Hotel's tent, Diwan Al Khayal, apart from others is the fact that not only does it offer a variety Middle Eastern cuisine for sohour, it is also a fun Arabian souk.
Upon entry there's a local bazaar with market stalls, selling everything from Ramadan gifts to Emirati souvenirs. There is also a small oasis featuring tropical plants. This tent is great if you want to entertain friends or family who are visiting.
Location: Jumeirah Beach Road, next to Burj Al Arab
Price: A minimum spend of Dh70 applies
Call: 04 406 8999
5. HILTON DUBAI JUMEIRAH
With delicious food and drink, light Arabic entertainment, and even fun camel rides, the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah's Ramadan tent is always worth at least one visit a year.
This year features a large contemporary Arabian tent that offers both in-house and outside seating, with spectacular night-time views of the beach. An extensive a la carte menu is available for sohour, as well as a variety of shisha.
Location: Dubai Marina, Near Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai
Price: From Dh35
Call: 04 399 1111
6. AL BUSTAN ROTANA, DUBAI
If you are a fan of the Middle East's version of American Idol, Super Star, then you're in for a real treat with Al Bustan Rotana's
Layalina tent. One of the show's contestants, Lebanese singer Mohamed Jaafeel will play throughout the month.
Meanwhile, drinks, shisha and food is served throughout the night, including regional delicacies such as mixed oriental grill, shawarma, falafel, saj and fatteh.
Location: Garhoud, Dubai
Price: From Dh55
Call: 04 282 0000
7. AL QASBA, SHARJAH
Ramadaniat Al Qasba returns to the popular Sharjah destination for plenty of family entertainment and activities throughout the holy month. The Al Qasba tent offers sohour deals, exciting competitions and screens showing the latest Ramadan programmes.
Additionally, Ramadaniat Al Qasba 2008 will host Al Eman Oasis, a series of bilingual talks by prominent local and international Muslim scholars open to all faiths and nationalities. The tent will also feature activities for children, exciting competitions for Muslims and non-Muslims, and a comprehensive Islamic library to browse through or buy.
Location: Al Taawun Road
Price: From Dh25
Call: 06 556 0777
8. THE WALK, JUMEIRAH BEACH RESIDENCES, DUBAI
Dubai Retail's 300-capacity tent, Halla Walla, is arguably one of the best in the emirate this year.
Set in an ambience that is evocative of the region's traditions, and serving a wide assortment of Arabic and North African cuisine for sohour, this tent is a must visit for those who like their tents hip and happening. The only downside is that the minimum spend doesn't include shisha.
Location: Next to Hilton Dubai, Jumeirah
Price: A minimum spend of Dh100 applies
Call: 04 435 1149
9. SHERATON DUBAI CREEK HOTEL & TOWERS
The Al Masrabiya poolside tents at the Sheraton Dubai Creek are a big draw every year, with their typically Arabic decor and private majlis areas. An a la carte menu offers hot and cold mezzeh and snacks and desserts are offered over board games and shisha.
Location: Baniyas Street
Price: A la carte
Call: 04 207 1404
10. HABTOOR GRAND RESORT AND SPA, DUBAI
The Habtoor's Al Naai tent is located by the beach, and features the best in Arabic entertainment, from screens showing the latest Ramadan programming to light Arabic music.
For sohour, there's a selection of Lebanese delicacies and sweets,
Arabic coffee, as well as a variety of shisha.
Location: Dubai Marina
Price: Dh185 per person
Call: 04 399 5000