If you thought of January as generally being a cold, sleepy month in which a groggy world slowly awakens to the dawn of a new year, then think again! In Dubai, there’s no need to hide under a blanket or snuggle up by the fire, not with the amount of things to do, see and enjoy, and the fabulous weather that accompanies it all.
This month Dubai welcomes 2017 in full flair and fashion with plenty of activities and festivals lined up to keep everyone from clinging onto those bedsheets. It might be freezing cold in the UK but Dubai rocks a balmy 28 degrees Celsius during the day, every day, with no rain, no sleet, no snow - nothing but boundless sunshine and cloudless skies. Keep reading my guide on how to best enjoy January 2017 in Dubai and find out what’s in store during the first 31 days of the year.
Dubai Shopping Festival – ongoing until 28th January
We introduced you to DSS in our earlier What’s on in Dubai blog last December, as it actually kicked off on Boxing Day, yet it needs mentioning again as the festival is ongoing until 27th January. The most flamboyant, ambitious and record-breaking of shopping festivals in the world is celebrating its 22nd edition and as such it has more in store than ever to lure avid shoppers and casual spenders alike.
And it’s not all about the shopping either, the Dubai Shopping Festival contains much more besides in the form of daily raffles, fun activities for children, outdoor markets, special celebrity performances, amazing fireworks every weekend, and, of course, massive sales across a varied range of products on all malls and shopping districts. If you thought January Sales were big in the UK, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
If ever you wanted to witness camel-racing in Dubai, January is the month for that as there’ll be not just one, but several races taking place throughout the month, two every week! If you’re more into horse racing then you’ll have two chances to attend Meydan Races this month and if you prefer watching hot wheels race past instead of animals, there’s also the Hankook 24H car rally to look forward to!
Camel Races (6th,7th ,13th,14th,20th, 21st, 27th, 28th January)
The most extraordinary of animal races, there’s only a handful of places in the world where you can witness camel races at anyone time, and Dubai happens to be one of them, with January being a camel racing month per excellence. Come to watch the world’s finest, best trained camels battle it out on the arena with twice daily races every Friday and Saturday until February.
Get a taste of an old Emirati tradition with free entrance for all! There are four races every week, on two consecutive days so you’ll have plenty of chances at catching some camel racing action. It might seem crazy at first but upon close inspection you’ll find that it’s controlled chaos, and incredibly fun to watch!
Hankook 24H (12th – 14th January)
Putting their stamina to the test with the ultimate endurance feat, the Hankook 24H Dubai is a 24-hour race that sees drivers fight it out against the clock and against each other at the Autodrome in Dubai Motorcity. Get ready to spot a variety of “tin top” touring cars, from purpose-built hot hatchbacks to GTs and some unique 24H Specials like silhouette cars and some seriously attractive G3 machinery.
For car-race loving aficionados and experts alike this is an exciting race not to miss. You can join in the racing fun from a starting entry price of just around 22 AED, going up to 35 and 45 dirhams (that’s just around £10 at most!).
Meydan Races (14th and 28th January)
Get a glimpse of Emirati equestrian heritage at the most exciting of races in the Racing Calendar at the Dubai Racing Club. With all the horse racing action running from November and leading up to the “big day” in March when the Dubai World Cup is battled out (the winner of which gets to walk away with a prize money of several million US dollars!), this is definitely a racecourse to pay a visit to during your Dubai holiday, especially as the atmosphere heats up the closer it gets to the big finale.
You’d think a race of this prestige wouldn’t come cheap yet general admission is entirely free, although if you want to experience it in style and mingle with the Dubai elite there are VIP packages on sale offering privileged views over the racecourse as well as tantalising cuisine at the Parade Ring Restaurant.
Beats and sounds
Cairo Sound Music Festival (13th January)
If you’ve got a taste for fine, entrancing Arabian music there is one music festival in Dubai this month you simply cannot miss. Giving the audience a masterclass on how traditional Egyptian sounds and rhythms fused with world music, the Cairo Sound Music Festival presents a talented line-up of Egyptian performers playing distinctive music genres in their unique traditional style. From jazz to rock, reggae and house, this is a treat for the senses and an unmissable party for music buffs.
Dubbed to be a world-class show packing the stadium to the brim, this is one date to firmly mark on the calendar, while ensuring you’re not too late to get your hands on tickets. The venue is the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre and the show starts at 5 p.m., whit doors opening from 4 p.m. The party goes on until 12 a.m. and children under 6 go free. Tickets start at 195 AED (around £43) for adults and 95 (around £21) for children aged between 6 and 12 while VIP seats are priced at 525 AED (approximately£116) for adults and 265 AED (close to £60) for children. ID is required for children of all ages.
Elton John Live (20th January)
Last month we had announced Elton John’s planned Dubai concert on 14th December, which was later cancelled due to the British singer and songwriter’s poor health. Only it wasn’t really cancelled, it was postponed and pushed back a month so that fans could hold on to their tickets and enjoy Sir Elton John’s moving performance a few weeks later.
One of Britain’s most legendary singers will be arriving to Dubai this 20th January to dazzle fans at the Autism Rocks Arena with a show that promises to be every bit as spectacular as the man himself. Be ready for a special evening of touching lyrics, contagious melodies and good showmanship. Coming to Dubai as the last stop on the Middle Eastern leg of his Crazy Wonderful Night Tour, Sir Elton John will be serenading the audience with a selection of his best hits of all time. Tickets start at 295 AED (£65 approximately) and go all the way up to 995 AED (£221) for Platinum seats. They sell out fast so you don’t have long to get your mitts on one.
Al WASLA Music Festival (20th – 21st January)
Uniting the freshest, most up-and-coming talent in the Middle East, the Al WASLA music festival celebrates experimental Arabic music, moving away from mainstream songs and sounds by bringing alternative beats to the table. The festival comprises a full day of various performances bringing together a diverse group of music genres. Whether you’re a rocker, a jazzist, an electronic music fan or a soul devotee, there will be something for you here, all beautifully presented next to delicious eats in a joyful atmosphere at the park.
Open to everyone 18 and over, the festival takes place at the Media City Amphitheatre and tickets range between 295 AED (around £65) and 445 AED (with discounts for students on regular ticket prices). The gig starts at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, going strong all the way into the early hours of the following morning (2 a.m.).
CATS (16th – 28th January)
Taking centre-stage at the Dubai Opera over the space of two weeks, one long-awaited musical is finally coming to Dubai, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s world-famous CATS. Having captivated audiences from all over the planet and cast its spell on over 73 million people across more than 300 cities, one the longest-running shows in London’s West End and Broadway will be debuting in Dubai for the first time ever.
Starting the year strong, on the most musical and theatrical of notes, CATS will no doubt be a highlight in Dubai’s 2017 show calendar. The recipient of two Grammy Awards and seven Tony Awards, CATS will move audiences of all ages in Dubai and will be on show for a very limited time only. Now it’s the time to get tickets before they sell out fast – a show of this international prestige will see queues forming at the stands. If in Dubai during this time you can catch the show from 275 AED (£61) onwards.
Inmotion (27th January)
An innovative, highly creative group of Swiss performers will make way for Dubai this coming 27th January to give one of their outstanding shows. Demonstrating what extreme yo-yo mastery is all about, you can prepare to feast your eyes on a unique performance where speed, creativity and dexterity create the most amazing visual displays.
Having been awarded the 2012 World and European Yo-Yo Championship title, Inmotion will no doubt make your jaw drop. See the amazing tricks being performed to the tunes and impressive moves of hip hop crew, Special Elements, a Swiss dancing group who are not only famous for having won the Swiss Hip Hop Championship (and being finalists on Switzerland’s Got Talent show) but also for their “Push it to the next level” motto, a promise they fully deliver on and perfectly illustrate with their daring moves. Madinat Theatre is the chosen venue, the show starts at 8:30 p.m., doors open an hour earlier and ticket prices start at just 60 AED (that’s around £13) – an absolute bargain for a spectacular one-of-a-kind show bringing together such astounding talent!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (13th – 15th January)
Calling on all families for January’s most special children’s show in Dubai – The Very Hungry Caterpillar takes over the Centrepoint Theatre to put a smile on audiences of all ages, especially the youngest tots. One of the most beloved of children’s books comes to life in Dubai as the characters take shape following the original, educational storyline with the aid of adorable puppets and expert storytellers breathing life into the lovable characters.
But it won’t be just this one story being told and enacted, but three more of Eric Carle’s storybooks will be played out as well: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse and The Very Lonely Firefly. For young and the young at heart, there will be three daily shows over the course of three days, on 13th, 14th and 15th January. Time slots to choose from are 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on 13th January and 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the last two days.
Heritage and Culture
Etihad Museum comes to Dubai (7th January)
A brand new museum comes to Dubai to enlighten visitors about the UAE’s past and offer a deeper look into the country’s heritage, traditions and laws (its constitution and citizens’ rights, among other peculiarities). Built on 2nd December 2016 to commemorate the UAE’s 45th National Day, up until now the museum had only been open to senior officials and VIP delegations, but from 7th January everyone will enjoy free access to it.
Designed in the shape of a manuscript with seven columns to symbolise the seven pens used to sign the Union agreement, this museum offers visitors a full immersion into the United Arab Emirates’ history, dating all the way back to before the Union was formed and beyond. We are not sure how long this museum will remain open to the public before access starts being charged or the building changes purpose, so now is definitely the time to visit!