Until a few years ago, I had always spent Christmas time at home in the UK – then more recently I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Christmas in both Melbourne, and Amsterdam (not at the same time!). Whilst both of these offered different experiences from ones that I was used to (in Australia it was a few degrees warmer than the UK, plus I found a vegetable that is a Christmas standard, that I disliked even more than the dreaded brussels – pumpkin!), essentially Christmas was celebrated in much the same way. This year however, the festive season was spent at home in the warmth of Dubai.
Despite being an Islamic country, the UAE, and Dubai in particular, is very accommodating with respect to celebrating Christmas – shops are stocked plentifully with all the usual Christmas goodies, and the malls are adorned with wonderful decorations, so there can be no doubt as to the time of year.
However, as it is an Islamic country, perhaps the biggest difference that I noticed lies in the fact that Christmas Day is not a public holiday – whilst the schools are on break, and most westerners will have taken leave, the shops, services and other businesses are open as usual – I found it a little strange to look out of our kitchen window on Christmas morning, at the guys who are building a new hotel opposite our apartment, all working normally.
In fact, it was a few minutes after looking out from our apartment at those guys, that I was most grateful that it was a ‘normal’ day – I needed to quickly check something on my laptop, and as the battery was just about flat, I went to my laptop bag to retrieve the power cable, only to find that … shock, horror …. it wasn’t there!
Long story short, I’ve been working for most of the past few weeks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and had left my office in a hurry on Thursday evening to catch my flight back to Dubai – such a hurry in fact that it turned out I neglected to unplug the power cable for my MacBook.
So, after a few minutes panicking, it occurred to me that the Apple store in the nearby Mall of the Emirates would be open, so off I went for the first time in my life, to go shopping on Christmas morning, and believe me I wasn’t alone, quite a surreal experience!
Back home within an hour, mission accomplished, it was time to prepare for Christmas lunch – or rather brunch – at the wonderful Dubai Yacht Club, located conveniently right next door to our apartment.
The next few hours were spent with our friends Rowena and Andreas, at a waterside table, enjoying great festive food and bubbles, including the biggest ‘yorkies’ that I’ve seen in along time.
In keeping with the more traditional aspects of Christmas, once we got home feeling totally ‘stuffed’, it was time to collapse on the couch and check out the TV. I did miss seeing the Queen’s message at 3pm, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I managed to catch up with that particular tradition a little later in the day.
Late afternoon drifted into evening, but there was little activity on our part other than changing channels, or switching to Netflix, but it had been a great day – a little different to what I’m used to, but really enjoyable nonetheless. Thank you Dubai!