‘TIS THE SEASON: Finding that festive feeling in Abu Dhabi

Christmas in the desert? Yes, you really can have a merry little time in Abu Dhabi. So if you’re missing family, hearing Band-Aid stuck on repeat or your traditional white Christmas, we’re here to help you have a holly jolly holiday in the capital


Whether you’re a bit of a Grinch or you’ve had your tree up since early November the festive season is here and there’s no stopping it.

Ok, so there’s no chance of a white Christmas here in the capital but that’s not to say you can’t deck the halls and enjoy all the spoils of the season with your friends and family. We’ve rounded up the best ways for you to find that festive feeling in Abu Dhabi.

Find Santa


What would Christmas be without seeing the portly man with the white beard and red suit? No one spreads Christmas cheer more than Santa Claus himself and you’ll be delighted to know that Abu Dhabi is an important stop on his global tour – let’s just hope you’re not on his naughty list.

The jolly fella will put in an appearance at Al Seef Resort & Spa by Andalus on 9th December. The hotel is hosting a pop-up festive market where carollers will soundtrack the afternoon before Santa takes centre stage to light up the tree at 5.30pm. Off Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street, near Khalifa Park. 2pm-8pm. Contact: 02 652 6722, book@andalus.ae

Catch him again on 12th December as he joins carol singers to see another tree lighting ceremony where hot eggnog will be served. Free. Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, between the bridges. 6pm. Contact: 02 654 3333, fairmont.com/abu-dhabi

On 24th December, Saint Nicholas trots into the desert on horseback to share gifts
with youngsters. Free. Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, Sir Bani Yas Island. 5.30pm. Contact: 02 656 1399, sir-bani-yas-island.anantara.com

The magical man is also making an appearance on the same night in a local play centre where he’ll have milk and cookies and write Christmas cards. AED 120, with one hour of play. Orange Wheels, Al Wahda Mall. 6pm. Contact: 02 667 4411, orangewheels.com

Find a feast


No matter where you’re from or how old you are, there’s no doubt many of your holiday memories revolve around food.

If you’re not a dab hand in the kitchen and don’t know your way around a turkey, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to get that festive grub without donning an apron.

Takeaway turkey

Kick back and get your turkey with all the trimmings, including Yorkshire puddings, for between six and eight people. But remember to get your order in at least 48 hours ahead. AED 450 per order. Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort, Corniche East. Contact: 02 677 3333, sheratonabudhabihotel.com

Pick up a beautiful oven-roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce and root vegetables to wow your family. Orders must be placed at least three days before 25th December. AED 500. Safina, Saadiyat Beach Club. Contact: 02 656 3500, saadiyatbeachclub.ae

Sink your teeth into a homemade meal comprising an oven-roasted turkey, glazed chestnuts, root vegetables and sweet treats including a Yule log and ginger cookies – all delivered straight to you door on Christmas Day. Advanced order required. AED 145 per person. La Brioche, branches across the city including Khalifa City and Delma Street. Contact: labriocheuae.com

Treat your guests by serving a fresh turkey, sage and apricot stuffing with thyme-roasted potatoes, minted green peas and much more. Advanced order required. AED 775. Jones the Grocer, locations across the city including Khalidiyah and Al Raha Gardens. Contact: bit.ly/1vMj2ve

Feel festive at home


A Christmas tree can make your home feel festive in the run-up to the big day but there’s plenty more you can do to get the holiday spirit flowing through your abode.

Instead of placing Christmas cards on the shelf why not string them up and display on the wall, front door or even better make a mobile using thread?


Christmas is full of great scents too: spices like cinnamon can make you feel Christmassy so try out a few festive candles or stick lots of cloves into oranges and display them in a bowl as a centrepiece.

Still not feeling festive? Try putting jars of candy, gingerbread and other snacks around the house for guests and the family to snack on.

Fill up at brunch


Tuck in to a festive buffet with a selection of traditional dishes and live carving stations while little ones enjoy the Kids Club. AED 325 with soft drinks, AED 435 with house beverages, AED 163 for children aged five to 12. Ingredients, Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street. 12.30pm-4pm. Contact: 02 656 1000,

Sink your teeth in to sumptuous food served from a range of live cooking stations that will feature a variety of traditional and contemporary creations. AED 249++ with soft drinks, AED 319++ with house beverages and AED 389++ with bubbly. The Foundry, Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, Mina Street. 12.30pm-4pm. Contact: 02 818 4888, bit.ly/1Sji6uW

Get stuck in to a delicious barbecue buffet lunch with both classic and contemporary dishes finished off with endless desserts while the little ones take part in festive activities. AED 350++ per person. The Park Bar and Grill, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island. 1pm-4pm. Contact: 02 407 1138, bit.ly/2bwj5Uq

Spend your Christmas lunch in exquisite surroundings and enjoy a Christmas feast featuring all your favourites and a few special treats too – it is Christmas after all, you’re allowed a little indulgence. AED 450+++ with soft drinks, AED 600+++ with house beverages, AED 700+++ with bubbly. Le Vendome, Emirates Palace, Corniche West. 12.30pm-3.30pm. Contact: 02 690 9000, bit.ly/29g1YX2

Soak up the festive spirit and get your turkey fix or go down the non-traditional route and sample a range of dishes from around the world. AED 149 with soft drinks, AED 249 with house beverages, AED 79 for children aged six to 12. The Bistro, Courtyard by Marriott, World Trade Center. 12.30pm-3.30pm. Contact: 02 698 2222, courtyard.marriott.com

Finding the right gift

Nothing stirs up that festive feeling like shopping for gifts for loved ones.

Sometimes finding the right gift is a piece of cake while for others it feels like mission impossible. But don’t stress; take a look at these unique offers:

For the adrenaline junkie


If your partner think he’s James Bond, how about treating him to a driving experience in an Aston Martin GT4? Take a spin in the supercar that features a 4.7-litre V8 engine and feel the rush. AED 1,750. Yas Marina Circuit. Contact: yasmarinacircuit.com

For the family comedian

Do you know a joker? Sign them up for a stand-up comedy course and see how funny they really are. The five-week course starts on 14th January and culminates with a live performance so you can see if they can get some laughs on stage or a few groans. AED 800. Venues and times vary. Contact: yallalaughs.com

For the pampered prince or princess


It may not be snowing outside but it’s certainly freezing at CRYO. Pamper your significant other with a unique beauty treatment that includes Body Cryotherapy and a CRYO Glow facial that will cool skin to temperatures of between -140°C and -180°C. AED 650 for a single 35-minute session. Abu Dhabi Country Club, Al Saada Street. Contact: cryo.com

For the avid photographer


If you know someone who loves wildlife, then why not send them on a safari to Sir Bani Yas Island? At the Arabian Wildlife Park you can spot giraffes, oryx, hyenas and much more as you cruise around the desert island to spot free-roaming wildlife. AED 510 day pass including lunch.Contact: 02 801 5266, sirbaniyasisland.com

WORDS Colin Armstrong
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