Abu Dhabi: Two whole months have passed since the UAE switched to its Saturday-Sunday weekend. And residents now appear to have found their groove, having adjusted their activities, chores and downtime with their days off.
For many, it has meant simply shifting their outings and tasks to a different day of the week. Others have found that they can keep up with their regular activities with a tad bit more planning. And for those whom the new weekend has meant an extra half day off — like children and certain professionals — the additional time is an undeniable boon.
Shorter work weeks
“I am lucky to work in a company that lets me off at 12.30pm on Fridays. I get to come home and kick off the weekend early with my four-year-old son. My son doesn’t fully understand what has changed, of course, but he sure enjoys having me to himself for longer,” said Maryam Danagege, 32, a media professional from Nigeria.
She added that the changed weekend therefore felt like ‘the best decision ever’, and said she wanted to now carve out some time for self-care during her ‘longer weekend’. “I have been planning to focus more on my health and so I am thinking of signing up with a gym that I can attend on Sundays, for a start,” she said.
A lot of residents have already experienced Saturday-Sunday weekends in other countries. Pakistani expat Zubair Haider, an exports professional who works in Dubai, said he has therefore “adjusted well” to the new weekend.
“Initially, there were some changes to my weekend routine, such as no longer being able to take my children to the mosque for Friday prayer. Other than that, the weekend change has not made any real difference in my case. I have also experienced Saturday-Sunday weekends during my stay in other countries previously,” 42-year-old Zubair Haider added.
A number of long-term expats in the UAE said they found the switch easy, but must occasionally remind themselves of the day of the week.
“I was born in the UAE and have only lived back home in Egypt for a prolonged period. In both countries, Friday was always part of the weekend, so I still feel like it is the end of my work week when Thursday rolls around. And I have to remind myself that it is a Saturday, not a Friday, when my weekend begins!” said Nawal Boulos, 40, a cultural affairs coordinator from Egypt.
She has, however, been able to simply change her weekend activities. “The main difference for me is that I attend mass on Sundays now, instead of Fridays,” Boulos added.
Rania El Kebbe, 30, a Palestinian-Lebanese media consultant, is another expat who was born and raised in Dubai. “I still wake up on Saturdays, the start of my weekend, thinking it is a Friday! For me, Fridays have always been a day for family and worship. So, while I have adapted well to the weekend change, I do have to be extra disciplined on Fridays to tick off all the activities I reserve for the day,” she said.
“I guess I am just used to my weekends starting on a Friday! With that being said, I am now able to set aside my Sunday to prepare for the coming week, which is nice,” El Kebbe added.
The shift to a new weekend has obviously freed up maximum time for schoolchildren and students, with schools and universities closing early on Fridays. In addition, schoolchildren in Sharjah now have three days off at the end of every week, with the emirate opting for a three-day weekend for students and government workers.
“I love it very much and it was quite easy to modify my schedule, as the UAE is now aligned with all the other countries. My plans for the weekend haven’t really changed, but I spend more time with my family,” said Timotius Messi Shalom Siregar, Grade 5 student at GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi.
Many students said they would not have it any other way, having now experienced a work week that is only four-and-a-half days long. “I like how we have a shorter day on Friday because we can have two-and-a-half days of weekend. I use my free time on Friday to spend time with my family, and take a break from studying and looking at a screen. My catechism class has also changed as well from Friday to Sunday,” said Elisha Marie Pacariem, another Grade 5 student at GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi.
Ornella Urvoy, a Grade 4 student, at GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi, said she planned to user in her free time on Fridays for playing, reading and gaming.
“I found it a bit weird [when the weekend first changed]. I was confused because from time to time I did not know what day we were on! But my plans for the weekend are not different compared to [what they were before]: Playing with friends, having family time and sleeping in the morning,” she said.