Winter may have properly settled in the UK by now, but Dubai still enjoys temperatures in the low 30s and high 20s, which means forgoing heavy winter coats and forgetting all about wrapping up in layers.
The reliably sunny weather this December may make you forget it’s winter, yet their selection of activities will be a delightful reminder, with a variety of festive specials that range from Christmas Carols at the Dubai Opera to the Dubai Winter Festival (which includes every winter fun activity, from snowman building to Christmas crafts) and the mega New Year’s celebration at the end of the month – a small preview: they’re planning to break their own record on the largest and longest fireworks display in the world!
With a strong start to the month, you can tell Dubai certainly loved December and is eager to share this love with the world, not least of all due to the fact that the second day in the month marks the UAE’s National Day, bringing forth three days of nationwide celebrations including several concerts, special sales across all malls and even a carnival!
Without further ado, here are my overall top recommendations on the biggest festivities and events in Dubai this December 2016.
UAE National Day – Sales, Fireworks, Concerts and Carnival (1 – 3rd December)
While the United Arab Emirates officially celebrates its National Day on 2nd December, celebrations for the biggest day in the UAE calendar begin much earlier, with the National Day Carnival having already kicked off on 27th November and re-launching every day at City Walk from 4 to 10 p.m.
One day ahead of the big day, on 1st December, Dubai will host a series of special gigs with National Day Arabic Concerts, featuring a wide array of performances at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Dubai Festival City, The Beach, City Walk and City Centre Mirdiff at the onset of 8 p.m.
As the sun starts to sink into the horizon on 2nd December, fireworks will light up the sky at The Beach from 8:30 p.m. while a variety of establishments all around Dubai celebrate the big day with a big bang. From hotels to restaurants and public areas, you can expect National Day to be full of festive action and special evening parties, the biggest of which takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre with the participation of DJ Tiesto performing live from 9:30 p.m.
As part of National Day celebrations, over the course of three days (from 1st to 3rd December) traditional Arabian music will take over the malls, with live bands performing between 4 and 10 p.m. Shoppers will be especially inclined to make the most of National Day sales across the city, with discounts of between 60 to 90 per cent off – great bargains are to be found everywhere!
Dubai International Film Festival 2016 (7th – 13th December)
Culture vultures, keen cinema goers and lovers of glamorous events have an unmissable date in Dubai this December with the upcoming celebration of the Dubai International Film Festival. Now in its 13th edition and attracting a global scope of filmmakers, from Bollywood to Hollywood but also, and most importantly, being the biggest event of its kind showcasing and exposing Arabian cinematographic talent to the world, the DIFF gathers some of the most prestigious name in the industry and invites everyone to take part with its Friends of the Festival packages, including access to screenings, special meet and greets and entrance to press conferences to interact with industry professionals at the Dubai Film Market.
With previous editions having brought over to Dubai international big screen stars of the stature of Morgan Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Emily Blunt, this year’s upcoming festival looks more promising ever. Tickets for individual film screenings are priced at just 35 AED (that’s only a little over £7!), meaning access to is at the reach of every cinephile’s pocket. If you want a bit of red carpet razzle and dazzle then be ready to fork out 500 AED for the Red Carpet Gala Package, which is roughly around £110. You can also opt for Bundle Packages to cram in from 10 to 15 different screenings. Whatever your choice, this is one Dubai festival that’s definitely worth attending, especially since it has been included in Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the World’s Top 15 Film Festivals for two years running!
Dubai Winter Festival (8th to 10th December)
This is the one winter event this December that all families will want to attend, as it brings together a myriad of ways for children to have fun and get stuck in a variety of activities, from craft-making to carol-singing, gingerbread house decorating and, of course, the good old snowball fighting. From perusing a selection of attractive Christmas goodies at the Winter Market to having a chat with the man of the season himself (Santa, in case added clarification was needed), and enjoying a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, the Dubai Winter Festival at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre is the place to be at from 8th to 10th December.
To kick the festival’s activities off, Thursday night on 8th December will bring a Christmas special show with a Festive Spectacular including performances from the RAT PACK and friends. Tickets for adults start at 85 AED and children’s at 50 AED, with access to Santa’s Grotto being charged at an additional 30 AED. My only wonder is why they don’t make this, a festival that’s bound to be hugely popular with families, a longer than two-days event…well, maybe next year!
Those who love the performing arts, and more specifically classic numbers, will love the opportunity to catch two exceptional shows this month in Dubai, one a classic ballet performance by Les Ballet de France and the other, a rendition of a classic ballet piece performed on ice.
Les Ballets de France (2 – 3rd December)
A prestigious dancing company is making it to Dubai in early December, giving ballet enthusiasts a chance to be captivated by the finely-honed skills of a private French team of professional dancers: Les Ballets de France.
Having wowed international audiences with their seamless, emotion-filled performances, which expertly combine elements of classical ballet dancing with contemporary moves, the group’s Grand Ballet Gala is coming to Dubai with a mission to seduce and entrance. Their beautifully choreographed presentation, with the inclusion of 15 soloists, is a medley of popular ballet classics like Coppelia and Le Corsaire, appearing alongside contemporary pieces like Bolero and Something I Had in Mind. Pure poetry in motion for the senses. I wouldn’t miss it.
The Nutcracker on Ice (6 – 10th December)
Gliding through ice as gracefully as birds take to the skies, a particularly chilly production of The Nutcracker will be expertly performed at the Dubai Opera this December by talented, skilful dancers at World, European and National skating level. Moving audiences with their captivating choreography and spectacular leaps, throws and mind-bending acrobatics, The Nutcracker on Ice promises a delightful time out for families, couples and solo travellers alike.
Combining awe-inspiring tricks and twists at full speed with more sublime dancing movements in time with Tchaikovsky’s moving music, this is one festive treat to make the most of while seats are still available. Those interested can choose from five days and two different time slots on the last four days. Performance starts at 7 p.m. on inaugural day 6th December, at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on 7th and 8th December, and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on 9th and 10th December. Tickets start at 250 AED (£55 roughly) and go all the way up to 850 AED (that’s around £186) for Premium seats.
Striking the right notes
If music is what gets your juices flowing then you’ll have quite a pick of concerts and gigs to choose from in Dubai this December. Beyond UAE National Day concerts, here is my top pick of what music events not to miss this month in Dubai, with a gentle sprinkling of Christmas cheer.
A festive Jamboree (13th – 14th December)
The most Christmassy of all in this music section, this heart-warming, carol-singing extravaganza brings together every Christmas favourite, ensuring everyone is wrapped in a blanket of delightful Christmas cheer whilst in the middle of the Arabic desert. This jingle bells production will be performed by a selection of prominent stars from London’s West End, backed up by the Capital Voices choir under the conduction of Pete Harrison and the accompaniment of London Concert Orchestra Show Band.
The fuzzy Christmas cheer will be spread to the sound of timeless seasonal hits like Jingle Bell Rock, Santa is Coming to Town or It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. If you want to join in the chorus and sing your heart out, the Dubai Opera is the place to head to on 13th and 14th December. Ticket prices go from 150 AED (around £33) to 450 AED (£98 approximately) for Premium seats and individual box prices (a box sits between four and five people and is sold as a whole starting from £1,800).
Elton John Live (14th December)
Making a grand entrance in Dubai as part of his Crazy Wonderful Night Tour, Sir Elton John will be rocking a Dubai audience this 15th December at the Autism Rocks Arena. Whether you’re a fan, or not really, you can give him a chance to prove his worth as an artist in a concert that will include special renditions of his best ever hits, like his record-breaking Candle in the Wind, holding the record for the best-selling single of all time.
With over five decades of sell-out performances, numerous awards (including five Grammys, five Brits, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Tony and a Disney Legends award, in case anyone’s keeping count) and over 50 albums under his belt, seeing Elton John perform live is a real treat. Improvising his way throughout while sitting at his piano, this is one true showman who never fails to deliver. Unfortunately, we've had to revisit this post to announce that, due to health reasons Elton John was forced to postpone his Dubai concert which will now be happening on 20th January 2017.
Mobilis Ensemble of Soloists (15th December)
Performing a selection of Baroque and Romantic music masterpieces, this group of seven musicians, all playing string instruments will put on a remarkable, one-of-a-kind concert at The Palace, One&Only Royal Mirage Hotel.
A musical chamber ensemble, Mobilis is known for “performing a maximum volume of the musical literature at a high professional level with a minimum number of participants”. Putting together a medley of works ranging from the 19th to the 21st century, what you will find incredibly inspiring about their performance is not just their seamless fusion of styles, but also, the ambience adding to the entrancing feel. Show starts at 8 p.m. and ticket prices start at 250 AED (£55 approximately) going up to 550 AED (around £120) for VIP seats.
Ending things with a bang – bye, bye 2016!
As December nears its end, excitement builds up towards unwrapping Christmas presents, welcoming the new year and celebrating the end of 2016. Before this happens though, as soon as Boxing Day actually, one of Dubai’s biggest, most successful festival kicks off a season of epic shopping proportions. Read on to find out more about what you can look forward to in Dubai if visiting over the last week of the year.
Dubai Shopping Festival (26th December to 28th January)
Now in its 22nd edition, the Middle East’s largest shopping and entertainment festival officially (and fittingly), kicks off on Boxing Day for a month’s worth of special sales, amazing discounts, awesome deals and over-the-top celebrations. If you think January sales are big at home, that’s only because you haven’t been to Dubai’s Shopping Festival, or DSS, as they like to shorten it.
This month-long shopping bonanza brings forth a shopping frenzy with none of the overwhelming crowds, the shoving or the hurried must-get-heavily-discounted-item-before-someone-else-does syndrome. In Dubai the sales shopping season is more elegant, more refined and far more enjoyable. Beyond the shops, traditional souks and ultra-modern malls there’s plenty to entertain children and grown-ups alike, from celebrity performances to fashion flash mobs, daily raffles raffles and fireworks!
New Year Dubai 2017 (31st December)
If you want to welcome the new year not only in style but in full glamorous flair, you could certainly do much worse than Dubai. Not only is this emirate famous for setting (and still holding) the record for the biggest fireworks display in history, but it plans to break its own world record once again and beat its 2014 feat, where it fired 479,651 shells in only six minutes, at a mind-blowing approximate rate of 80,000 shells per minute.
With ambitious plan to make Dubai’s 2016 New Year party much bigger and spectacular than all previous editions, the city will come to life as the sun begins to set with a series of special celebrations. Then, at the stroke of midnight, and after the fireworks display, the city will be buzzing with after-parties and concerts. A grand way to welcome 2017 with a big, loud, yet sophisticated bang!