There were some highs, remember? Here are the events that will go down in your Dubai history
The year took off at flying pace as Haile Gebrselassie won the Dubai Marathon for the second year running (though he failed to break his own world record due to the slippery rain-sodden streets), while AC Milan narrowly beat Hamburg SV via penalty shoot-out at the Sevens stadium. But the real gossip of the month was either the whereabouts of the Beckham family, who were holidaying here due to David playing with the aforementioned Italian side, or, more importantly, which venue had scoped our first ever best bar award. Barasti took home best outdoor, while Buddha Bar scoped best indoor. Oh, and the impressive Chinese State Circus somersaulted into town, while we pondered whether Dubai’s rent and property prices might drop. Hmmm…
Culture hit a high this month as the inaugural Emirates Airline Festival of Literature inspired Dubai’s literati with talks from high-profile international authors, ranging from Khaled Al-Khamissi to Margaret Atwood (via video link). John Legend was slick as ever at the Jazz Fest, Fatboy Slim funked up Barasti beach (though shocked revellers by finishing at 11pm) and Iron Maiden proved they still rock at Media City, despite the quiet speakers. Venus Williams swooped into the top spot at the Dubai Tennis Championship, while Serb Novak Djokovic took the men’s title. But the overriding headline was Barack Obama’s election into the US presidential office, encouraging a deluge of Obamarama mementos into ours (Ben & Jerry’s ‘Yes Pecan!’ ice cream was a favourite).
Cirque du Soleil kept the circus theme going, bringing its joyful Alegría show here for a month to freak us out with its superhuman contortionist twins. Lemmy told us that ‘hip-hop is musically devoid of any f***** talent whatsoever’ ahead of Motörhead’s headlining slot at the Desert Rock Fest, while the food ran out at the year’s popular Taste of Dubai event. Art Dubai proved slightly less frothy than in previous years, though more focused ‘on the business of making art’, and non-chilled out acts stressed some out at the Chill Out Fest. On the sports front, Dubai’s first Rugby World Cup Sevens left the crowd merry, while the punters partied through the downpour at the races during the 2009 Dubai World Cup. The month delivered twice the average rainfall, completely drenching anyone watching Coldplay’s stunning, lightening-lit performance at Emirates Palace.
Old-school rockers Deep Purple deafened us as they closed the bike fest with fine falsettos, while Pakistani cricket fans – including a smouldering Imran Khan – went wild as their cricket team batted the Aussies off the new Sports City ground. Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire picked up the Time Out Restaurant of the Year award for its imaginative, high-quality fare, Womad Abu Dhabi hitched up our neighbour’s coolness rating somewhat, and the Gulf Film Festival also impressed. On the stranger side, we met Mr Zhed, the talking (and computerised) horse in the Al Saheel show, and ate dinner in the sky in JBR.
The whole of Dubai seemed to sweat it out at Chi’s Stereo Festival to see indie band The Charlatans and ex-Libertine Carl Barât play in searing temperatures. The first Nasimi Full Moon Party was a victim of its own success and completely blocked the Palm Jumeirah with traffic. If the new monorail, which opened three days before, had been running past 10pm – and was a little less pricey, at Dhs25 for a return – we’re sure everyone would have jumped on that. Speaking of launches, the Dhs110million Cavalli Club opened with much aplomb and foie gras, Dubai Fountain spurted into life with lights beaming into space, and Akon caused a stir by going topless at the new Palladium events venue. In other news, pork products were banned, bizarrely due to a swine flu scare.
Paris Hilton was flavour of the month in Dubai as she swanned over in search of a new BFF for her reality TV series, as well as to pick up plenty of cheques from whatever and whoever thought they’d benefit from a little Paris brand association (though she tweeted for free about how much she liked Time Out). Scot DJ Calvin Harris rocked Alpha, Michael Jackson rocked Dubai’s many MJ fans with his sudden departure and Dubai Summer Surprises brought us an appearance by the official tallest and shortest men in the world. In sadder news, the deaths of two of Dubai’s expat children following suspected food poisoning sparked the question among residents: are food health and safety standards here really up to scratch?
Keane impressed but didn’t quite blow away the crowds at their Madinat concert, marking pretty much the end of the outdoor gigs for the summer. While many residents jetted off to cooler climes, resident adventurer Adrian Hayes took things one step further and trekked to Greenland in the name of sustainability, completing the longest unassisted Arctic polar journey in history.
Dubai’s first Geek Fest united online nerds in an offline setting to talk and tweet over coffee, and the city went in search of local flair with singing competition Double Decker Idol and Camp Ka Champ, a talent contest for labourers in Dubai. Roni Size packed out Alpha, the UAE rejected the makers of Sex and the City’s request to film here due to its explicit content, and Modhesh World brought us 640sq m of jungle-themed bouncy apparatus. All in a Dubai summer.
We screeched around Sega Republic, The Dubai Mall’s latest opening, and tried not to hurl on the more testing rides. We also screamed into the top spot at Yas Island, as Time Out temporarily held the record for the fastest lap around the track (at 27 minutes, on a minibus, during a sneak preview). Most exciting of all was the launch of the Dubai Metro on September 9, as we found ourselves aboard the inaugural ride with HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister and vice-president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, and were caught on international TV. The next month was spent both praising and dissing the rules and reality of the shiny new transport.
The summer’s end was saluted by none other than monkey man himself, Ian Brown, who didn’t mind doling out the Roses classics at his Madinat gig, as long as we’d let him play his latest single twice. More people than ever completed the Pink Walkathon in support of breast cancer awareness. Yet that was about it for big Dubai news – this month Abu Dhabi stole the limelight as we met Naomi Watts, Demi Moore, Hilary Swank and Freida Pinto at theMiddle East International Film Festival. We then stayed over for the fantastic, though extremely expensive, F1event – despite the fact that music fans weren’t allowed separate tickets to the superb supporting gigs (Beyoncé blew us away).
November sung to life with SoundCity, Dubai’s biggest ever music festival, with seven venues and 76 acts. It may have been overpriced and plagued by cancellations (and missing certain Mancunian dancers), but we loved the organisers’ intentions. Elsewhere, Emirati Tariq Al Zaabee picked up a gold medal at the World Bodybuilding Championship, held in Dubai for the first time, with the UAE coming in second overall. Lee Westwood took the winning swing at the Dubai World Cup golf tournament and 600 people swum around the Burj Al Arab for charity. We met the creator of the world’s first Arabic-speaking android at this year’s GITEX, and sighed over Twilight: New Moon at Swiss Open Air’s screening, shown on (of course) the world’s biggest mobile cinema screen.
It seemed the UAE’s 38th National Day was met with even more fanfare than usual – we couldn’t turn our heads without seeing countless decorated cars, various parades and the nation’s huge flag floating from all angles (there was even a human flag at one event). Whether this had anything to do with the fact that Dubai’s debt had suddenly become the hot topic of world media or not we don’t really care. Brazil flicked and tricked their way to the top of the Fifa World Beach Soccer Championships, while New Zealand ran off with the Dubai Rugby Sevens title. Finally, Dubai International Film Festival may have attracted fewer big names and kicked off with a quieter opening party this year, but the range of films was better than ever. Which is how it should be really, eh?