Some of the highlights of the 2015 calendar year in Dubai have already been and gone, but I’ll mention them anyway, so you can be ready for them next time around. There’s still plenty to come, so once you’ve got an idea of what happens and when in Dubai, between January 1st and December 31st, it will help you plan ahead.
The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF)
Held each year in the cooler winter months (January and February), the Festival has morphed over the years since 1995 into so much more than just a loosely coordinated mélange of sales.
Exhibitions, concerts, daily spectacular fireworks displays on Dubai Creek and other events are now timed to run concurrently with this month of retail heaven – or madness, depending on your attitude to shopping. This year, the DSF, as it is locally termed, ran from January 1st to January 31st; in 2016, it is scheduled for January 7th to February 7th. So while it will always be held at this very pleasant time of the year, actual start and finish dates will vary a little each year.
To get an idea of what happened this year, read mydsf.ae. The site has videos featuring the highlights of the 2015 DSF, but bookmark the site and as information becomes available, it will update you on the 2016 DSF.
Other Shopping Extravaganzas
There’s always a sale on somewhere in Dubai, but there are a couple of other times during the year when prices drop and there’s a festive atmosphere in the malls.
At the end of the month of Ramadan each year, the celebration of Eid Al Fitr is a good time to go shopping, as is the other major religious holiday period, Eid Al Adha.
For 2015 the dates of these holiday periods, each often as long as a week, are expected to be from July 17th to July 19th for Eid Al Fitr and September 22nd to September 25th for Eid Al Adha.
UAE National Day (December 2nd & 3rd) is another good time to pick up a pre-Christmas bargain, but note that it’s only a month before DSF 2016.
But there is more to Dubai than shopping…
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
There are many world class sports events held in the UAE each year. The tennis tournament is held in February, taking advantage of the cooler weather.
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic
This is a world class golf tournament held in in February each year. So for golf fans, mark the first week of February 2016; that’s when it will all happen.
The Dubai World Cup
The world’s richest horse race ends the relatively short Dubai racing season. It was held on March 28th in 2015, but as with the DSF, it will happen again in 2016 at around the same time.
Cup Day itself is a great time to get the best suits, dresses, gowns, frocks and hats out and make a real gala day of it, but make sure you buy your tickets well in advance, because while the spectacular new Meydan Racecourse can accommodate more than 60,000 race-lovers in its mile-long grandstand, Cup Day can easily attract this many and more from all over the globe.
Bookmark the Meydan / Dubai World Cup site for everything relating to the 2016 Dubai World Cup.
Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
This takes place in March each year and has done for the past seven years. Well-known authors from around the world come to discuss their work and read excerpts to the delight of those attending and sign copies of their books.
The Dubai Jazz Festival (DJF)
Again DJF 2015 has been and gone, but already, the sponsor, Emirates Airlines has listed the dates for DJF 2016.
Held annually at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre in February, this again takes advantage of the weather at that time of year.
The jazz isn’t the only thing that’s cool. Personally, what I like about DJF is that while there’s plenty of mainstream and progressive jazz for the real aficionados, there’s always a popular, contemporary act or two on the program for people who may not know a lot about jazz but enjoy music, atmosphere and well-behaved crowds in a nice setting.
In the last few years, we’ve had Sting, Deep Purple, Santana and Joss Stone alongside top jazz acts. The site link has a nice photomontage of featured acts of past years.
Concerts in General
Outdoor concerts usually take place in the cooler months. In recent years Lady Gaga, One Direction and Robbie Williams have performed in Dubai. The Rolling Stones came to Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, in 2014.
Other, less famous bands such as The Wailers can be found performing at the Irish Village; this is a small, relaxed venue and very enjoyable. The Wailers are in Dubai in May.
This event, now in its 9th year, takes place in the lovely Madinat Jumeirah hotel in March of each year, so yes, sadly, the 2015 Art Dubai event has come and gone, but the 2016 dates are already up on Art Dubai’s website.
Art Dubai has a mixture of galleries from all around the world showing a sample of their wares, special exhibitions by invited artists, both international and local, and lectures and presentations by invited guests to the Art Dubai Global Art Forum.
I was lucky enough to receive free tickets to the inaugural Art Dubai in 2007, so what was on offer? Picasso, Matisse, Basquiat, Warhol, and Lichtenstein, amongst others, from memory.
Prices? Well, this was before 2008, but I finally gathered the nerve to ask about the Basquiat that I kept coming back to. Not impossible, but highly inadvisable, given the need to live and feed myself for the next thirty years or so. Ah well, dreams.
Taste of Dubai
Sadly, also over for 2015, but it’ll be back, like the Terminator. March 2016 (exact dates not available yet) is likely, as is the venue, Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.
It’s all about food, as you probably guessed from the title and yes, there are plenty of chances to buy and taste. Read more about it here: it’s a fun day out, with lots to see, taste and hear (live music, dancing and more).
There are exhibitions and demonstrations from some of Dubai’s well-known restaurants and chefs, but don’t go expecting to sit down to Michelin-standard plate after plate.
Oh yes, one other thing: use the Metro to get there; parking can be a pain. The Metro station (Dubai Internet City is the station you want) is just a short walk from the Media City Amphitheatre and the March weather isn’t oppressive.
Disney on Ice and other Extavaganzas
Disney on Ice comes to Dubai in June this year; this will be a welcome relief for parents as the heat of the summer builds. Also, it is worth looking out for other children’ shows, notably George’s Marvelous Medicine in May 2015.
One thing to note is that it is only later in the year that outdoor events really get started again. There is a hole in the middle of the year when the temperatures are extreme and many residents leave for the summer.
The Dubai Airshow
Still to come for 2015, 8-12 November, this annual event literally involves the whole population. Even if you don’t buy a ticket to see the hardware on display and the other related exhibitions at the new purpose-built Airshow venue at Dubai World Central airport (yes, that’s Dubai’s 2nd International Airport: DWC, not DXB), wherever you are, you’ll still get a taste of the airshow as the skies over Dubai are filled with fly-bys, aerobatic displays by internationally renowned teams and aerial test-drives of the hardware on display for sale.
The Dubai Airshow’s Website tells us proudly that the 2013 Show saw $US 20 billion worth of orders taken – with the clear inference that 2015 will be even bigger.
2015 Formula 1™ Etihad airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
This will take place on Yas Island, just out of Abu Dhabi on the 20th of November. So at least this one is not over.
Abu Dhabi seems to be the preferred venue for some big events these days and as it is only an hour’s drive away, this is not an impediment to you enjoying yourself
The Rugby Sevens
This is a big sports meeting in Dubai each year in December with famous teams and high profile players seen about town. It is a well-attended sports event that takes up a whole weekend.
The Dubai Film Festival
This also takes place in December. It is usually held in the Madinat Jumeirah in a relatively intimate theater. Unlike the usual serving of box office block busters, it is a chance to see less mainstream films and some celebrities as well.