UAE residents are experiencing their first Saturday-Sunday weekend. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: As the UAE moves to a new weekend schedule (Saturday-Sunday) from the New Year, residents have shared their thoughts on how life will change with the new work week (Monday to Friday), with many likely to have a four-and-a-half-day week at work.

Fr Lennie JA Connully, parish priest at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai, is expecting more worshippers to attend masses on Sunday. “On New Year’s Day, we have special services. From January 2, we will have a new timetable for the church. The Friday timetable will now be moved to Sunday and the Sunday schedule will be pushed to Saturday. Catechism classes will be held on Saturday and Sunday, with other things remaining the same,” he said.

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Fr Lennie JA Connully Image Credit: Gulf News archive

He added that the two-and-a-half-day weekend will help in staggering the arrival of worshippers to the church. “We are expecting more worshippers to attend the masses on Sunday and many may also come during the latter part of Friday due to Friday being a half-day.”

Church and football

As a Christian catholic, Italian chef Rocco Muotri said he was raised to celebrate Sunday at home with family after going to the church. “Also, Sunday is the football day in Europe and we love to follow the matches on the couches with friends. When I first moved in to the UAE, it took time for me to adapt to the Friday,” he recalled.

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Rocco Muotri Image Credit: Supplied

“From a business perspective, we are a community restaurant and our aim is to serve, satisfy and make our community happy. We are embracing the change and supporting our customers and making sure we cover weekends and daily working hours. Since our restaurants are next to office spaces, our core business will now move to Monday-to-Friday,” said Muotri, who works with Piadera.

Same holidays as relatives have

Mona Harbali, a food safety trainer from Lebanon, said her family was looking forward to having the same weekend as in her home country. “I have been here for three years. Back home, we have Saturday-Sunday weekends. Our family members come here on these days for short breaks. Now when they come over, we will have the same holidays.”

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Mona Harbali Image Credit: Supplied

She said her husband also loves to have a Sunday holiday as “he works with an MNC and hence there is not much work to be done on Sundays. I hope we will not forget the changes in paid parking days in Dubai [as RTA has announced that Friday will continue to be a free parking day, while Saturday and Sunday will be paid parking days].

“Our daughter is only two years old. So, I do not face any issue with Friday being half-day for schools. But my colleagues with school-going children are going to have an issue when children come back early from school on Friday. I guess office will give them an option to work from home on Friday, since we are not implementing half-day work on Friday, which is okay with us because we will get a longer lunch break for Friday prayers,” Harbali added.

Sunday shopping

British expatriate Lyndsey Redstone, who works as an executive sales consultant with a real estate company, said the weekend change may not make a major impact on her work as “working in real estate is generally a seven-day-a-week role”.

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Lyndsey Redstone Image Credit: Supplied

“However, aligning the weekend with the rest of the world will make it easier to facilitate calls with international clients and it will enable clients to visit on their weekends for home searches. Personally, I used to do my shopping on Sundays while I was back in the UK. Here, I have been doing it on Fridays. Now, I think I will start doing it on Sundays again. All in all, I think it’s a positive change.”

Sharjah shift

Noran Yasser Abdelaal, a university student in Sharjah, said she was waiting to see how people, schools and companies adjust to the weekend changes, “especially working on a Friday and managing to go to the prayer during the break”.

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Noran Yasser Abdelaal Image Credit: Supplied

“In Sharjah, the weekend is three days long. So, the Friday issue is resolved. But people have less time to work during the week and will have to manage their time differently,” Abdelaal said.

“As for me, I’m used to going to the university four days a week anyway. So, it doesn’t change much for me. My siblings and dad go to school and work five days a week. So this will be a big change for them and hopefully it doesn’t stress them out,” said the Egyptian expat.

Weekend adjustments

The weekend shift will mean some adjustments for Indian expat Nisha Rajesh. “My husband’s company already follows a Saturday-Sunday weekend schedule. We always had to struggle to attend Friday get-togethers and events because of that. Now, we can happily join our friends and relatives for Saturday parties and events," she said.

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Nisha Rajesh Image Credit: Supplied

But, at the same time, we will be missing our special Sunday outings as Sundays used to be less crowded. Sunday used to be our movie day too and we used to have the whole theatre for ourselves on many days! That was a special feeling and we are going to miss that,” she said.

Weekend travel

The weekend change will see a boom in tourism in the UAE, according to Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travels. “The travel industry is expecting a positive impact as the UAE weekend aligns with the rest of the world.”

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Afi Ahmed Image Credit: Supplied

The new weekend is also likely to create an impact on passengers flying out of the UAE during weekends, he said. “Airfares going up slightly, closer to the weekend, is a trend here. It used to be on Thursdays and Saturdays earlier. Now, we are expecting a shift in that to Fridays and Sundays as people cashing in on their weekends for short trips might want to fly out and come back on these days,” he observed.