Despite its location (the desert), and the country’s religious status (Islamic) there is plenty of
festive spirit to be found in the United Arab Emirates around the Christmas season—even if the
Christmas tree you might find yourself rocking around is a majestic palm instead of a fragrant
The UAE is home to 9.2 million citizens, and of that number 7.8 million—or around 85%—are
expats. The UAE is renowned for its tolerance of other religions and their celebrations, so
there’s plenty to help keep the season bright.
For those seeking religious observances, there are several churches throughout the country that
hold traditional services in recognition of the day. In Abu Dhabi, most churches can be found in
the Al Mushrif area and on the outskirts of the city in the special economic zone Musaffah. In
Dubai, most churches can be found in Jebel Ali Village.
Dubai is also home to many of the UAE’s most prominent Christmas markets. The St. Regis
Dubai Gardens turns into a winter wonderland every year offering entertainment, market stalls,
and appearances by Santa for the kids. Madinat Jumeirah also hosts a 1,750-square foot
German-style Festive Market that runs from December 15-27 with slides and games, and a
giant snow ball zone.
There is also a popular Winter Festival in Dubai every year in early December that celebrates all
things about the season.
And for those looking for other traditions of home, many companies offer imported live
Christmas trees in addition to artificial trees, decorations, and imported culinary delicacies.
Many hotels and restaurants also offer special Christmas brunch menus.
Another part of the holiday season that bears mentioning in the UAE is New Year’s Eve. The
UAE takes NYE celebrations very seriously with the fireworks display in Dubai often considered
one of the biggest and most expensive in the world. Millions of people gather to watch the show
which centers around Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. However, as popular as the
fireworks display is, there are rumours that this year’s celebrations will take on a different
form—a spectacular and cutting-edge light show. Only time will tell!
While Christmas Day isn’t considered a national holiday in the UAE, you don’t have to look very
hard to find plenty of ways to celebrate and enjoy the season with friends and family both new