Holidays and Vacations in the Middle East
International school in the middle east generally follow the Western education system, in school approximately 180 days a year with summers off. ESL schools either go year round, with periodic breaks throughout the year, or they follow a summer-off schedule similar to international schools. For both ESL and international schools you’ll typical work week is Saturday through Wednesday, with the “weekend” falling on Thursday and Friday. This can take some getting used to, but it works out the same and when you can just “shift” the week in your mind you won’t notice a difference.
The Middle East has many holidays observed throughout the year – more than most any other region. These include New Years Day, Mohammed’s Birthday, Ramadan, Arafat Day, Feast of the Sacrifice, Islamic New Year, UAE National Day. The dates of these holidays vary from year to year based off the lunar calendar. Some of the holidays, for example Ramadan, will last for several days or even a week at a time. Between school breaks and national holidays, a teacher can receive upwards of 50 days of paid time off. In particular, the religious holidays are celebrated throughout the entire community with, aside from just the schools, most businesses and all the government offices shutting down. But it’s a great time for international teachers to use their hard earned salary to travel outside the country and visit other places!
Teachers abroad often use their weekends to relax, travel around the country, or explore their local area. Inside a teacher’s host city, a typical weekend could include many of the same activities available in Western countries. For movie lovers, larger cities probably have English speaking theaters, while in smaller cities people often gather at someone’s home for a movie night. Parties and game nights are also popular, as is shopping for unique local treasures. In the middle east you might not be able to buy alcohol (depending on what country you are in and what time of year), so “parties” probably won’t get quite as crazy as they would be back in a Western country.
For other social activities, most cities have many different clubs teachers can join. You can find an American or International Women’s Association in many countries, and this organization hosts cultural and charitable events for female expatriates living in the city. For a more laid back group, the Hash House Harriers is a running/social group in which many expats participate in most major cities around the world, even in English speaking countries. Check them out, but leave your inhibitions at home!