One of the largest fairs in the world, Oktoberfest is one of the most famous events in Germany, held over a period of 16 to 18 days. This year’s celebration is particularly significant, as it marks the 200th anniversary of the festival. It began in 1810 as a horse race organised in Munich to commemorate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, but has since evolved to include a parade, becoming a celebration of Bavarian food, drink and music, attracting around six million people each year.
With a 10,000-strong community of German expats living in Dubai, the UAE-based celebrations have grown in popularity year on year; numerous hotels and bars around the city get in on the action by running special promotions and events.
The celebration has been marked in the emirate for at least four years, with insiders saying this year could be its most popular yet. Want to join in? We’ve rounded up a few places in the city to sample traditional Bavarian food, drinks and entertainment.
Best for: Experiencing a traditional Bavarian party
Dedicating 700sq m of lawn to a gigantic marquee, the Grand Hyatt is pulling out all the stops for its fourth Oktoberfest, accommodating up to 500 people at any one time, though the management expect far more to turn up. This is perhaps the most popular Oktoberfest venue in the city – the 2009 celebrations saw more than 6,000 people turn out over 11 days.
‘Four years ago, we started off with a tent on one of our smaller event lawns that could accommodate 150 people, but this year it’s on the main lawn, in the biggest possible tent we could fit in the garden,’ says Mark DeLeeuwerk, assistant director of food and beverage at the hotel. Once again, the organisers have drafted in Die Kirchdorfer, a band that native Bavarians will recognise as being synonymous with the mammoth 10,000-seater Hacker tent at the Munich event, at which they are also performing this year.
As well as live music, there will be plenty of entertainment, running every night from 7pm until 1am, including a raffle and ‘best dressed’ competition, for which visitors are encouraged to wear their best ‘traditional’ outfits: men, be sure to don your lederhosen; ladies, get out your dirndls to be in with a chance of winning. ‘We’re expecting at least 50 per cent of the people who turn up to be in traditional dress,’ says Mark. ‘Seeing everyone jump around to traditional Bavarian music in the middle of the desert is always very amusing.’
Though the party planners at the Hyatt are keen to avoid turning the event into a gimmick by going overboard, they’re determined to make this an authentic celebration. Naturally, this extends to the food and drink. ‘It’s a lot of sausage and [yeast-based drinks],’ explains Mark. ‘What else is Germany famous for?’
And what could be more authentic than serving drinks in measurements of ‘Halbe’ (half litres) and ‘Maß’ (litres)? You’ll need a good feed to keep you on your feet before you attempt a few of those, and there will be plenty to choose from, including pork knuckle, meat loaf, weisswurst sausage (pork and veal), ragout and cheese dumplings, as well as tasty apple strudel and Bavarian pancakes with raisin and cherry compote.
In the evenings the event will only be open to those aged 18 and above, although there will be family brunches on both Fridays, open to all ages and priced at Dhs160 per person.
Festivities run from October 13-23. Grand Hyatt, Oud Metha (04 317 1234)
The Irish Village
Best for: Rowdy groups
Never one to miss an opportunity for a party, The Irish Village will be putting on a buffet spread filled with traditional German dishes including sauerkraut [a sour, finely shredded cabbage dish], grilled sausages and pickled herring, plus snacks such as pretzels. Wash it all down with a glass of German drink, while enjoying entertainment from an oompah band, The PIK AS, who are flying in from Europe for the occasion.
Festivities run from October 14-15. The Irish Village, Garhoud (04 282 4750).
Best for: Family gatherings
As well as live music from oompah band Volte, which will no doubt have kids and adults alike dancing between tables, this traditional German restaurant, behind Diyafah Street in Satwa, will be serving heaps of hearty, authentic dishes. Whether you fancy a wurstel (Viennese sausage, similar to a hot dog) or want to sample some special Bavarian brews (well, Brauhaus does mean ‘brewery’ in German), it’s all here. The buffet costs Dhs159 with soft drinks and Dhs259 including house beverages; there’s also an à la carte option.
Festivities run from October 19-23. Jumeirah Rotana, Satwa (04 345 5888).
Best for: Laid-back fun
The Munich Musicians and ‘yodelling queen’ Lissi (aka Die Münchner Musikanten mit der Jodlerin Lissi) arrive at the Dusk Terrace fresh from Oktoberfest in Munich, and will be performing at the Media City hotel for the second year running. During the venue’s four-day celebration, kicking off at 7pm every night, there will be a special menu featuring usual German suspects (and favourites) such as smoked fish, cold cuts, veal liver and bratwurst, plus traditional Bavarian draughts.
Festivities run from October 12-15. Radisson Blu, Dubai Media City (04 366 9111).
Bridges Sports Bar
Best for: Sophisticated sampling
It may have only opened prior to the football World Cup this summer, but the Fairmont’s new bar is getting in on the Oktoberfest action, with a special offer running until the end of the month. Visitors will still be able to choose from the full range of international yeast beverages, both bottled and draught, but from 6pm until 1.30am the bar will be offering customers the opportunity to enjoy two draught beverages from its range of German brews, plus one of its signature burgers, for Dhs90 all in.
Festivities run from October 1-31. The Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 5555).
Bavarian phrases to use this Oktoberfest
Scheene Lederhosn! Wo konn i so oane kauffa?
Nice lederhosen! Where can I buy some?
Schauhn sie ouf moane bratwurscht?
Are you looking at my bratwurst?
And one not to use:
Hobn sie aa Beglischs getränken?
Have you got any Belgian drinks?
Oktoberfest in numbers
During last year’s 11-day
Oktoberfest at the Grand Hyatt…
• 6,000 guests visited the marquee
• 2,500 sausages were sold
• 2,000 pretzels were baked
• 15,000 yeast-based drinks were poured