It’s a great time to be in Dubai this May. The mood is decidedly fraternal and familial as the celebration of Ramadan unfolds, bringing about a spiritual undertone to any Dubai holiday. Don’t worry, you won’t have to join in the local fasting and your hotel’s restaurant will still serve you breakfast and lunch, though outside their premises you will be expected to respect those fasting and avoid eating in public. But there’s more to Ramadan than fasting, with special traditions taking over the emirate and giving you a unique opportunity to join in the locals and learn more about Muslim customs during this special celebration.
Embrace the spirit of Ramadan at a variety of venues, and that goes beyond the ones mentioned here, as virtually every restaurant in Dubai will have a special celebratory Iftar menu to tuck into after the sun sets. Mingle in the local crowd and learn about the deep spiritual meaning of this special time in the Muslim calendar. It will add a unique depth to your holiday and enrich it in a way that nothing else can.
Before Ramadan takes over, there is a good selection of fabulous events to attend. Here is my top pick.
Top Variety Pick
City Walk Matryoshka Festival 2018 (2 to 5 May)
Celebrate all things Russian with a three-day cultural extravaganza that returns to Dubai in the form of the much-loved family-friendly Matryoshka Festival, transforming the city into a magical wonderland full of Russian themes. From grabbing unique pieces at the pop-up fashion stores to browsing through the traditional market while tucking into delicious Russian bites, there´s a lot to see and do and little time to get bored. Singer Nikolai Baskov will serenade evenings while prima ballerinas from St Petersburg´s prestigious Mariinksy Theatre take to the stage before it all ends with a show-stopping light show. While you´re at it why not enter the raffle draw to win FIFA World Cup 2018 tickets and don´t forget to snap up some pictures of the giant matryoshka dolls hand-painted by local and international artists. Kids will also have fantastic opportunities to try some traditional Russian games!
Russian Seasons in Dubai (3 to 5 May)
Continuing on the Russian theme, the Burj Al Arab brings a trio of talented Russian performers to its stage to host their annual Russian Seasons and welcome the spring in style. An unmissable evening of classy Russian entertainment with Slava, Stas Pieha and world-famous composer and producer, Viktor Drobysh, hosted at what’s often described as the world’s most opulently luxurious hotel, the self-rated seven-star Burj Al Arab. This is Russian entertainment at its finest with The Evgeniy Morozov Quartet serenading guests as they enter and proceed to enjoy a sumptuous dinner before the concert begins at 9 p.m.
The Illusionists Live in Dubai (1 May to 7 May)
Prepare for a mind-blowing spectacle where some of the world’s most amazing illusionists take to the stage to perform a variety of stunning tricks before a wide-eyed audience. Joining forces for the first time ever, the planet’s most talented illusionists (including Jamie Raven, Raymond Crowe and Ben Blaque) will cause jaws to drop with their disappearing and levitation numbers as well as their suspenseful escapes and mind-reading powers. It’s on at the Madinat Theatre (at Souk Madinat Jumeirah) during the first week of May. Tickets prices range from 245 AED (£49) to 1,495 AED (£299) with the best seats including a three-course meal at the Cavalli Restaurant & Lounge.
The Mentalist at The Junction (11 May)
This one-woman motivational and highly-educational show performed by former “Germany Got Talent” contestant and German mentalist Juliet Arndt, who has successfully brought her show around the world and delighted audiences from Austria to the U.S. comes to Dubai for one day only. A unique blend of mind-reading, hypnosis, storytelling, neuro-linguistic programming and showmanship, this exceptional performance will be enhanced by the accompaniment of local tribal and harmonic music group, Cosmic Roots, setting the tone for a night you won’t forget. Tickets are available for just 150 AED (£30) and there are two shows to chose from; an afternoon performance and an evening one.
Stereophonics Live in Dubai (11 May)
The legendary Welsh band returns to Dubai after three years to rock the audience to the sounds of their 10th studio album, Scream Above the Sounds, which was launched last year. This time they’re stopping in the emirate as part of their latest world tour, where fans will be treated to a selection of their biggest hits, like “Have a Nice Day” and “Dakota” while being joined on stage by a line-up of invited guests, who are yet to be announced. Tickets start from 399 AED and the show is on at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.
Ramadanization at The Gallery of Light (13 May to 17 June)
To mark the celebration of the Holy Month in the Muslim world, DUCTAC’s annual Ramadanization art exhibition returns for a third edition this mid-May, showcasing Dubai’s community of artists at The Galler of Light. Asking artists to show what Ramadan means to them, the gallery accepts artworks from anyone who wants to submit them and displays them for all to see. Head down here during Ramadan to appreciate local talent and enjoy an educational experience on what Ramadan means for Muslims. Admire the best works and enjoy the festive atmosphere. Entry is free and the gallery opens daily from morning to night (closing at 10 p.m.).
Ramadan Majlis (15 May to 14 June)
On the occasion of Ramadan, the Dubai World Trade Centre will host a delectable Iftar buffet every day throughout the Holy Month with the launch of Ramadan Majlis. The delicious food will be expertly prepared by award-winning chefs and visitors will be able to enjoy the traditional breaking of fast experience among locals with the best Arabian hospitality. Tuck into tantalising regional delicacies, mouthwatering desserts and cups of the finest “qahwa”. After sunset, everyone is welcome to this grand family feat in a luxurious Middle Eastern-themed setting. If you come just before sunrise you can select from an extensive Suhoor a la carte menu, ensuring you fill up well for the rest of the day ahead. Or, if you prefer a more intimate setting, there’s the option of booking a private majlis (or gazebo) for up to 24 diners.
CHI-KA Ramadan Tent at Alserkal Avenue (16 May to 16 June)
If you want to forgo the luxury and sumptuosity associated with Iftar feasts, then head to the Alserkal Avenue to enjoy a more subdued and minimalistic approach to the Muslim breaking of fast during Ramadan. The Open Tent by CHI-KA returns to Dubai this Holy Month to offer diners a delightful, welcoming space surrounded by a bonsai garden, with calligraphy motifs, murals and an oud player performing live. Swiss-born chef Michael Fessler will present fast-breakers with his signature culinary concept, which brings together Middle Eastern and Japanese cuisine. Also onsite will be coffee roastery Night Jar and Mirzam Chocolate Makers. It will open every evening during Ramadan from sunset until 10 p.m.
Iftar at Dubai Opera (16 May to 14 June)
For a rather unusual Iftar experience, especially if after a few days of enjoying Ramadan in Dubai you crave something different for after the sun goes down, the Dubai Opera offers a unique setting for dinner. Completely transformed into a magnificent banquet venue, the state-of-the-art auditorium will provide diners with an amazing way to celebrate Ramadan. Live Arabic music will perfectly complement the exquisite rotating menu by award-winning Sean Connolly, featuring national and international specialities. This elegant and traditional experience is ideal for families as the meal is complimentary for kids under six, while those aged between 6 and 11 enjoy a 50 per cent discount. Everyone else dines for a very reasonable 250 AED (£50) per head. A pop-up market in the foyer will display a collection of special gifts to mark the Eid celebrations ahead.
Closing season of Groove on the Grass (4 May)
The last edition of Groove on the Grass will close in style with an exciting line-up of iconic singers and DJs, united in one massive stage - the green grass of the Emirates Golf Club. Main acts include DJ Apparat and Maribou State from the UK, as well as live performances from Max Cooper and HVOB. Supporting artists Liminal Roots, Paul Josef and MO Ezabby complete the picture, while the festival, as usual, includes an arts marketplace as well as a variety of food and beverage options onsite with a great selection of pop-up vendors and fun sunset activities.
Jonas Blue at Zero Gravity (11 May)
The biggest music festival on the beach of the month (and also the last) will come alive at Zero Gravity to the sounds of English DJ and producer, Jonas Blue. Celebrating One Big Friday with a big bang, the young performer, who has already been nominated for the BRIT Awards twice and sold over 21 million singers around the world, arrives to the Dubai stage to wow crowds of party-goers. More guest acts are expected to join Blue on stage, but details on the names will be revealed over the coming days.
Spamalot at Dubai Opera (2 to 5 May)
For two days only, the popular musical Spamalot will stop in Dubai to regale the audience with a belly-tickling performance. The critically-acclaimed, award-winning musical based on the Monty Python and the Holy Grail film and performed by British comedy group Monty Python, tells the story of King Arthur and his knights with original songs by Eric Idle. The entertaining show is on at the Dubai Opera and theatre-goers have three different times to enjoy it for a discounted price: 8 p.m. on 2nd May and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on 5th May. Just use promo code to DCSPAMA get 25 per cent off tickets on the above-mentioned timeslots. Normal ticket prices start at 250 AED (£50).
DCC World Classical Music Series - Emirati Talent (10 to 11 May)
A very special evening where the best of local talent will take to the stage at the Royal Ballroom of the One&Only Royal Mirage, the DCC World Classical Music Series puts the focus on Emirati performers. This one-night-only concert will see seven pianists performing a beautiful classical programme that includes pieces by Altaee and which is dedicated to the late Founding Father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Organised by the Dubai Concert Committee (DCC) the main aim of this special event, beyond regaling a classical- music-loving audience, is to support and promote local culture.
Families with kids
Monstesaurus Live in Dubai (9 and 10 May)
Young and old alike will love this beautiful play based on a children’s book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. Coming straight from London’s West End and written by the producers of Aliens Love Underpants, the play tells the moving story of a young inventor who wants to create a world full of monsters. Once he’s made the wacky creatures, he realises he doesn’t quite know what to do with them and the story unfolds (with no more spoilers on my part!). An interactive experience that promises non-stop fun for children and adult of all ages with many songs to sing along to and fantastic dance routines. It’s on at the Madinat Theatre, with the show starting at 4 p.m. on 10th May and three different timeslots to choose from on 11th May (10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.). Tickets are modestly priced between 105 and 126 AED (£21 to £25).