The traditional festival of Diwali is the biggest event of the year for Hindus and Sikhs, and thousands of Dubai’s residents will be ordering new clothes, buying candles, decorating their homes with coloured sand and making their houses look like sparkling grottos in preparation for the occasion.
We’ve outlined the best places to get everything you need for the big event, and where to go to experience the energy of Diwali in Dubai.
This is the most important accessory. Lights represent inner light and supposedly banish the dark and evil spirits. Anything that illuminates can be used, but diyas (oil lamps) are most common. Get these at Masouma Shambeh Novelties, near Shiva Temple in Bur Dubai (04 353 4223). As an alternative, try battery-operated candles from Pottery Barn at Mirdif City Centre (04 6062 610). Finally, for tons of tea lights and candles for as little as Dhs10, head to Ikea at Dubai Festival City (04 203 7555).
Garlands and flowers
Colourful garlands and flowers are a must for any Diwali celebration – they’re used to adorn the body, to decorate doorways and homes and to offer to the gods. You’ll find an abundance of huge garlands at Khalifa Adnan Novelties in Bur Dubai, near Shiva Temple (04 353 6793). Fresh-cut Indian flowers can also be bought at nearby Natural Flowers Trading (04 353 2763); sprinkle them around the house, float in water or thread onto string and hang.
It’s all about dressing to impress during the festival. There are dozens of places in Dubai that can create tailor-made traditional outfits: we recommend specialists Trans Stars Trading, located at the Wholesale Textile Market near the abra station in Bur Dubai (04 353 5081). Speak to helpful shopkeeper Pardeep, who’ll offer you a custom-made sari for as little as Dhs35. Choose from a variety of materials, with modest or more striking colours, beads and details. They also do custom-made suits and shirts for men.
Rangoli (coloured powder and sand)
This is usually sprinkled in different patterns and shapes, such as stars, flowers or to simply spell out ‘Happy Diwali’. Dubai’s desert location is pretty handy for this tradition: just drive out to the desert, collect a bucket of sand and add some watered-down food colouring. Then let it dry in the sun and get sprinkling.
Sugary sweet treats are a must for any traditional Diwali celebration. Look out for karanji (baked or fried flour dumplings stuffed with dry coconut), ladoo (aka semolina balls), and rasgulla, a Bengali speciality served with cottage cheese and semolina cooked in syrup. However, if you don’t have a sweet tooth, try the savoury buttery chakli – crisp swirls of dough with a salty or chilli flavour. Pick them up from Al Asheera Grocery, behind Juma Masjid in Bur Dubai (04 353 5497) which offers free home delivery. For more on traditional Diwali food.
How to get involved
Attend a Diwali party
Get into the festival sprit by listening to Indian-infused beats from DJ Akbar Sami and resident DJ Manoj at this huge Diwali party at Da Gama in Garhoud’s Century Village on October 29. Ladies get in free all night or couples pay Dhs120. For details, call 050 571 5745.
Shop at a Diwali bazaar
On Saturday 30, Zen Restaurant in Za’abeel Park will host a sale of handmade products and jewellery for the Diwali season. There will also be entertainment from DJ Abhijeet & Jeff. The sale runs from 11am until 9pm and is supported by the Emirates Arthritis Foundation, Dubai International Arts Centre, The Lupus Awareness Group and WassupDubai.ae. For more info, call 050 657 4189.
Get a henna tattoo
Painting your skin is great way to get into the Diwali spirit. A henna tattoo usually takes up to four hours to create and dry (depending on the artist and style), and will fade after two to three weeks. Rachana Salon on Al Wasl Road offers Indian and Arabic designs, so you should find something to suit the mood. Call 04 394 4489 for appointments.
Eat a Diwali feast
Indian restaurant Handi, at Deira’s Taj Palace Hotel, will be serving traditional thali cuisine from northern India on November 5 and 6, featuring lots of small bowls so you can mix and match.We like the sound of the murg tikka surkh (boneless chicken tikka marinated with tandoori spices) and rampuri korma (mutton in onion and cashew gravy). It’ll cost Dhs150 per person, or Dhs120 for vegetarian menu, and is available for lunch and dinner. Call 04 223 2222 to book.