Monday, November 8, 2010

Holidays in the Sun

Next week is Eid ul-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice - also known as "Big Eid") - a public holiday in the UAE. As with HK, some of the holidays in the desert are fixed by reference to the appearance of the moon - although in HK there seems to be a little more flexibility as to when the the holiday dates are identified whereas here the actual day has to be identified with precision - for example the Eid-al-Fitri holiday that marks the end of Ramadan can only be declared when the "moon committee" have confirmed the first sighting of the new moon - as a result everyone is kept on tenterhooks until the last possible moment before knowing when the holiday is due to begin.

In HK there were may public holidays - in addition to the Christian or Western holidays of Christmas etc. left over from the British Colonial days, there were also the "local" holidays e.g. Dragonboat day, the Lantern (new moon) festival, the "hungry ghosts". In a good year, when the public holidays fell during the week, this could mean 15, 16 or 17 extra days off. UAE is closer to the UK in terms of days - around 8 - but unlike UK, if the days in question fall on a weekend then, tough luck, they do not automatically move to the nearest working day. This can have unfortunate consequences and of course this being my first full year living and working in the Middle East, we have had a disproportionate number of "holidays" falling on a weekend. I will reserve judgement to see what happens next year before deciding whether the large number of weekend holidays was merely unlucky coincidence or an attempt to ensure that we all worked harder!

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