Christmas in Dubai may not sound like the snow-strewn ideal the festive period is popular depicted as, but it can be absolutely bucket loads of fun. In fact, there’s nothing about a Christmas in Dubai that means you’ve got to miss any of your traditions – from the snow to the stuffing. If it’s your first Christmas in Dubai, here’s what you need to know.
Yes, you’re going to have a sunny Christmas Day
Dubai Christmases are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to spend the festive period wrapped up in snowflake-print long johns and desperately trying to warm up in front of a not-so-magical log fire. The skies are blue, the clouds are cotton wool, the weather is perfect for the beach (average highs of 26˚C, lows of 17˚C), and outdoor eating and drinking is ON.
But you can still have a white Christmas if you want one
Fondue at Après overlooking Ski Dubai? That totally counts. Or go hit the slopes if you can handle the rented salopettes. (Shudder.)
And you can still get turkey
By the bucket load. They’re available in supermarkets if you’re cooking your own, but that would be most un-Dubai of you. For those staying at home on Christmas Day, the most popular choice is to order in one of the city’s abundance of takeaway turkeys. Five-star hotels, cafés and restaurants across the city go all-out with their takeaway birds (and rib-eyes, and legs of lamb, and so on), and you can get several kilos worth of poultry, plus roasties, veg, gravy, cranberry sauce (and a partridge in the proverbial) starting from around Dhs150. Though the super-fancy ones go up to the thousands of dirhams. Most places don’t deliver (shock, horror) – you’ll have to go and pick it up from the venue yourself on the day or day before.
But most of the city goes out to eat
Out? On Christmas Day? You read that right. For those who live in Dubai, spending Christmas in the city is just another big Friday brunch. With jingle bells on. Restaurants, bars and hotels across the emirate pull out every single last stop – right down to jolly Santas and gingerbread grottos. Prices range depending on the swank-factor (think Dhs350 to Dhs850, on average), but most put on all the classic Christmas dishes, in addition to a sprawling buffet of seafood, salads, grills, desserts and cheeses, and special festive-themed beverages.
Speaking of going out, the whole city stays open
Hypermarkets, shopping malls, bars – Christmas Day is business as usual across the city. So whether you’ve forgotten the cranberry, or to buy your beloved wife of 20 years a present (or aren’t celebrating the occasion at all), it’s no big deal.
You can go to church if you want to
The UAE may be a Muslim country, but it is a proudly religiously tolerant one too. Around Christmas and in the lead up, you’ll find many services available for different denominations at Dubai’s churches. St. Mary’s in Oud Metha is one of the city’s largest, while if you’re staying at the southern end of the city you’ll find St. Francis a bit closer.
There are loads of festive markets, fairs and events
Schools across the city host festive fairs, as does The Irish Village at its hugely popular annual tree-lighting (complete with free mince pies – get there early to make sure you get in). Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah and Winter Festival are two of the big ones, though the latter is not often all that well executed. Smaller-scale tree-lighting events take place at hotels across the city, typically within the first two weeks of December.