If you’ve recently relocated to the Sandpit, your first Christmas away from home could be a slightly depressing feeling – missing out on loved ones jovially reuniting, perfectly-cooked roast turkey with all the trimmings, singing Christmas songs around the fire, children playing joyfully and the sharing of gifts.
Well, if that's the case, you’ve probably mentally blocked out the reality of what Christmas is actually like back home. Back in Britain, for instance, it usually goes something like this. Uncle Derek gets over-excited early doors and starts a row with auntie Jane, mum’s (somehow) burnt the veg again, your gran is trying to sing Mariah Carey and sounds like she’s sat on the cat, the kids are having a fight over who gets the red fidget-spinner and the only gifts you receive are a questionable knitted jumper and enough socks to keep the cast of Riverdance’s toes nice and cozy. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s absolutely freezing… but never snows!
When you think of Dubai, you think of supercars, skyscrapers, sun and sand. None of these things immediately scream ho ho ho. But what if I told you that winter in the desert can be truly amazing and you could have a way better time here than back home?
Get your Christmas shopping done whenever you want
No need to fight off the crowds or wait for late-night shopping to get a chance to stock up for Chrimbo. Every day there’s late-night shopping in Dubai and with a mall pretty much five minutes away from every person in the city you can get it done at your own leisure. In fact, you can even head out on Christmas morning, get everything you need and slip back in time for lunch!
Head to Winter Festival, Media City Amphitheatre December 6-9
Sack off the generic German winter markets that seem to have taken over literally every other city worldwide and stay here for the Winter Festival. With more than 27,000 people descending on Media City Amphitheatre last year, the atmosphere was great, and it promises to be so again. And with a Santa’s grotto, fairground, snow play zone, panto, Christmas market, live bands and carolers on stage, a giant Christmas tree and lighting ceremony worthy of getting the Chuckle Brothers out of retirement for, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. Plus, with the weather topping out at 25C, you’re not going to freeze your Christmas socks off.
Meet a Penguin
If the idea of snow is a part of Christmas you truly miss, then head to Ski Dubai, where you can not just play in the snow but meet a real-life penguin. Yep, we’re not talking about a chocolate biscuit in your Christmas stocking but the real deal. Last year, the venue was transformed into a winter wonderland with a penguin march and Santa’s grotto, where kids could meet Chris Cringle while parents sipped on a hot chocolate. See, you don’t have to go to Lapland to hang out with Mr Claus and co.
Head Out For Christmas Brunch
Why bother with the hassle of cooking when there are so many Christmas day dining options in Dubai? You can have a bubbly Christmas brunch with the family overlooking the Burj al Arab at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, and once you’ve stuffed yourselves to the point of button-popping, walk it off with a leisurely stroll down the beach. Then head home for a game of charades and stream a couple of Christmas shows on Netflix. Not a pot or pan to wash in sight.
Enjoy a multi-cultural Christmas
With so many different nationalities living in our cosmopolitan city, you come to realise that not everyone celebrates Christmas the same way as others. The Filipino fraternity have a midnight feast on December 24 called Noche Buena, where they enjoy a combination of legs of meat, paella and various regional delicacies; Southern Indians feast on giant biryanis on the evening of December 25, while the Lebanese celebrate on both the night of December 24 and at lunch on December 25, dining on turkey or duck with a Middle Eastern influence. If you mingle with the right crowds, you can keep yourselves stuffed for days without a sprout in sight!
Boxing Day under the stars
There’s nothing more relaxing than heading to the desert, setting up camp and roasting a few marshmallows under the stars. Why not venture out with the family on Boxing Day and spend some quality time getting back to nature, Middle Eastern-style? It may not be a drizzly walk through the Cotswolds with a stop off at the local, but the view is just as epic, the weather far better and if you’ve got a 4x4, the activities a lot more exciting. Plus, you won’t be dodging cow pat at every turn.
With all this and more to do in Dubai this holiday season, I don’t know why you’d even consider heading home, wherever in the world that may be...