Christmas in Abu Dhabi may not be snow-strewn, but it can be absolutely bucket loads of fun.
In fact, there’s nothing about a Christmas in Abu Dhabi that means you’ve got to miss any of your usual traditions.
But, if it’s your first Christmas in the UAE, here’s what you need to know.
Yes, you’re going to have a sunny Christmas Day
Abu Dhabi Christmases are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to spend the festive period wrapped up in snowflake-print long johns and desperately trying to warm up in front of a not-so-magical log fire.
The skies are blue, the clouds are cotton wool, the weather is perfect for the beach (average highs of 26˚C, lows of 17˚C), and outdoor eating and drinking is ON.
And you can still get turkey
By the bucket load.
They’re available in supermarkets if you’re cooking your own, but that would be most un-Abu Dhabi of you.
For those staying at home on Christmas Day, the most popular choice is to order in one of the city’s abundance of takeaway turkeys.
Five-star hotels, cafés and restaurants across the city go all-out with their takeaway birds (and rib-eyes, and legs of lamb, and so on), and you can get several kilos worth of poultry, plus roasties, veg, gravy, cranberry sauce starting from around Dhs150.
Though the super-fancy ones go up to the thousands of dirhams.
Most places don’t deliver (shock, horror) – you’ll have to go and pick it up from the venue yourself on the day or day before.
But most of the city goes out to eat
Out? On Christmas Day? You read that right.
For those who live in Abu Dhabi, spending Christmas in the city is just another big Friday brunch.
With jingle bells on. Restaurants, bars and hotels across the emirate pull out every single last stop – right down to jolly Santas and gingerbread grottos.
Prices range depending on the swank-factor (think Dhs350 to Dhs850, on average), but most put on all the classic Christmas dishes, in addition to a sprawling buffet of seafood, salads, grills, desserts and cheeses, and special festive-themed beverages.
Speaking of going out, the whole city stays open
Hypermarkets, shopping malls, bars – Christmas Day is business as usual across the city.
So whether you’ve forgotten the cranberry, or to buy your beloved wife of 20 years a present (or aren’t celebrating the occasion at all), it’s no big deal.
You can go to church if you want to
The UAE may be an Islamic country, but it is a proudly religiously tolerant one too.
Around Christmas and in the lead up, you’ll find many services available for different denominations at Abu Dhabi’s churches.
There are loads of festive markets, fairs and events
Schools across the city host festive fairs, hotels across the city host tree-lighting ceremonies (complete with free mince pies if you’re lucky, typically within the first two weeks of December.