Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Celebrate Christmas in Abu Dhabi

With temperatures sitting firmly around the 25 degrees Celsius region, Abu Dhabi is a welcoming destination for some winter sun – especially for those of us living in rather wetter climates!

Its sub-tropical and dry weather allows for those attractive and pleasing bright blue skies in temperate heat practically all year round. The majority of the little and infrequent rainfall happens during winter, from November until March. Expect winter nights to be around 13 degrees Celsius.

As Abu Dhabi is mainly a Muslim country, Christmas Day is not top of their calendar events, however many locals do actually celebrate it. It is a normal working day in UAE, but most Christians and westerners in Abu Dhabi book the day off to celebrate. Just because there is no snow, it does not mean there are no festivities. The magical season is kicked off with special tree lighting ceremonies at lots of resorts.

As the largest of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. As the best time to visit is winter, it is becoming more and more popular with westerners to spend their family Christmas in Abu Dhabi for a truly different and memorable festive celebration.

On Christmas Day, head out to Desert Island Resort & Spa by Anantara for the festive gift hunt which is especially organised for children – which is also free! Other resorts allow you to indulge in Mediterranean summer settings, sunbathing around palms and swimming pools whilst being serenaded to festive jazz music – perhaps the ultimate juxtaposition. To keep the smaller people entertained, festive characters will be around too. Not forgetting the festive food either – the best bit of Christmas! Enjoy huge buffets of amazing festive fare at the resorts.

Traditional carols are everywhere in Abu Dhabi. Visit the Beach Rotana Hotel where there are carols every day until actual Christmas day. Melodies of the soothing and festive inspiring songs fill the air, getting everybody in the mood for the big day. For the little ones, Father Christmas himself makes a visit from the North Pole. The hotel even has its own Gingerbread House Festive store where you can grab any last minute presents. The shop also donates Dhs2 from every item purchased to Operation Smile charity –  an ideal way to give something back this Christmas.

The city of Abu Dhabi is decked out in all the glories of Christmas thanks to its colourful decorations. Around the huge palace like shopping mall, decorations, huge trees and ice rinks make it extremely Christmassy. Some even have Santa making appearances.

Take a step away from the huge modern malls, and visit the Swiss Christmas Market. In this hot desert area, this is the closest you’ll get to a European traditional Christmas market with little log cabins full of gifts. Dotted with plenty of sparkling lights, carols and trees, get away from the sun and forget you’re in the desert.

Another popular way to celebrate over the festive season for the younger generation is to take the opposite approach and head into the desert. The milder winter weather makes for the best time to go on adventures such as dune bashing (driving 4x4s) and desert safaris tours are really popular at this time of year. Seeing as Abu Dhabi is a mainly desert state there is plenty to explore here. Camp in the dunes in groups and celebrate the festive season, decorate a palm tree, build a festive looking sandman, sing carols around the campfire, or ride Rudolph the red-nosed-camel – get imaginative.

When it comes to New Year, there is plenty to do in Abu Dhabi from happening parties to romantic dinners for two.  If you want to get away, head to a resort, taking advantage of their festive rates and hibernate. Resorts in Abu Dhabi are so huge you can stay within them and dine in different restaurants and venues each night. The Islamic New Year, Hijri New Year’s Day is actually on 4th November.

Even with its warm sunshine, beaches and different religion, Abu Dhabi is still a special place to spend Christmas, or just get away for some winter sun.

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