Festive spirit was evident across the country on Friday as many expatriates enjoyed the novelty of a sunny Christmas by taking to the beach.
Tourists and residents alike were out in force for Christmas breakfast on the sand at Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai, while others were enjoying the long weekend afforded by the celebration of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.
Wearing red-and-white Santa hats, some tucked into mini mince pies during impromptu picnics, with The Palm Jumeirah as the backdrop.
“This makes a much nicer change than the rain and the cold we usually get at this time of year back home,” said Cathy Holmes, 30, from Ireland.
“The plan is to have a relaxing morning here and then go for Christmas dinner at a friend’s place a bit later.”
Ms Holmes decided to spend Christmas in Dubai and visit her family.
“My sister and her husband invited me over, and I thought it would be nice to see them and my two little nieces in Dubai,” she said.
“I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time so I booked a couple of weeks off and will go back [home] in the New Year.”
It was a similar picture in the capital, as families took to the Corniche to enjoy food and festive fun.
Maria Inglis was enjoying a leisurly stroll. “This year, me and my husband decided to spend quality time with each other, so we decided to spend the day at the Corniche along with our four dogs,” said the 38-year-old Briton, who runs a fitness business.
Ms Inglis added that Christmas in the UAE is always special, thanks to the great weather. “What else do you need on this special day when you have lovely weather to spend hours on the beach, enjoying every bit of it?” she said.
However, Marry Brown, 22, from the Philippines, was missing her family. The Abu Dhabi housemaid said: “The family I work for have gone out for the whole weekend, so I am alone in the house.
“My friends will be coming in the evening and we will spend some time together. The rest of the day, I will be waiting for my family to come on Skype so that we can chat.”
Ms Brown is marking her third Christmas in the capital and, despite being a little lonely, she is happy that she has been able to send money back home for her parents and three siblings to do Christmas shopping.
“I may also go to mall with my friends in the evening and buy something for myself. I deserve this Christmas treat for myself,” she said.
Ms Holmes was pleasantly surprised at seeing so many decorations around Dubai.
“I went to Dubai Mall a couple of days ago and almost all the shops have Christmas decorations and they were playing Christmas music, which was nice.”
However, it is not only Dubai Mall that embraces the festive spirit. Around Dubai there were activities to keep people entertained.
Emirates Golf Club hosted a Santa’s Village, where families had the chance to meet the man himself while taking in a tree-lighting ceremony and enjoying a festive-themed bazaar.
At Ski Dubai, children met Santa in the snow, while religious services took place at churches across the emirate, including at Holy Trinity Church, Umm Hurair, and at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Bur Dubai.
Elsewhere on Christmas Day, Al Dhafra Camel Festival, at Madinat Zayed, in the Western Region, was continuing to draw crowds. The festival, which ends on Wednesday, has 1,500 camels competing in 72 rounds, with Emirati heritage at its heart.
For Andrea Jones, 27, from Australia, the stay in Dubai over Christmas has become something of a tradition.
“I’ve been in Dubai for five years now and, for the last few, I’ve had my parents as well as my brother and his family spend some time with me,” she said.
“The weather here now is really nice and I find it so much more relaxing to spend time with the family here.”
Restaurants and coffee shops at Mall of the Emirates were doing brisk business as even non-Christians got into the spirit.
“We’re having a Christmas brunch with some friends from work,” said Abdul Khalid, 25, a data systems analyst from India.
“We weren’t able to arrange a proper work Christmas party because a lot of people were travelling so we thought this would be a nice thing to do for those of our colleagues who stayed in Dubai.
“I don’t celebrate Christmas but it’s still nice to see people wearing the Santa hats and the atmosphere is really nice.”
Abu Dhabi resident Adnan X Khan and his family were happy to take advantage of the long weekend to go on a road trip to the Northern Emirates.
“We got a long weekend so that’s why we have planned a big family road trip, to enjoy fantastic weather,” said the 33-year-old Pakistani, who is a director of photography and has lived in the UAE most of his life.
“Celebrating Christmas in the UAE is a unique experience. I do not think it can be compared to anything else. The festive spirit can be experienced and freely enjoyed by all.”
* Additional reporting by Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi
Source: UAE News