Christmas in Dubai

‘Tis the season to be bombarded with red and green and fat snow mans and tinsel and baubles wherever you go. ‘Tis the season where if you are not crazy about Christmas, you are driven crazy by the people who are. I mean, with Christmas thrown at your face wherever you go, you can hardly be ambivalent about it. So you either end up wincing when you hear Jingle bells in the department store for the umpteenth time, or start singing along with gusto, adding a skip to your step. We belong to the second category, embarrassingly so. And after Diwali, Christmas is THE time of the year for us. With a tree and gifts underneath it and Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and the likes crooning about white Christmas on and on in our living room, we go all out for Christmas.

Meanwhile in Dubai, it is tourist season, and we are witnessing Dubai’s splendour in all its touristy glory first hand. My enthusiasm to go sightseeing has always been rather lukewarm at best, and the Husband would keep joking about how Dubai for me is limited to Marina (where we live) and the grand total of four Malls I have been to. But the parents are visiting, and I am the designated tour guide/restaurant recommender/itinerary maker. The last time I had to take my parents along for sightseeing was in Hanoi three years ago, and I was more than willing to take them places but this time, with a toddler’s nap time and bedtime and meals to work around, it is turning out to be a bit, well, challenging. But like my Mother said just last night, “We are partying every night!” which means so far the trip is going not bad at all.

Last week we decided to go to Gold Souk because my parents wanted to gift Miss Munchkin a gold coin for her second birthday. Don’t ask me why the Husband decided to take us all the way to Gold Souk when we could have walked into any of the 108 or so (!) Damas branches in this place. The traffic was horrible, the drive long and slow, and by the time we reached there Miss Munchkin had decided that enough was enough and all hell broke loose. A cranky toddler, a stressed Mother and a near car sick Grandmother don’t really make for good shopping anyway, so we hurriedly bought the coin and rushed out to the safe haven of Dubai Mall where we could at least let the little tyke run amok like she wanted do. We decided to have dinner at Times of Arabia, and settled for a much needed cup of Moroccan tea while we waited for our order to arrive. And that’s when we saw them.

Three Tanoura dancers (as we learned later) wearing long colourful skirts took position in front of the restaurant and started whirling to music. The movement itself was mesmerising, what with their skirts swishing and swaying, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them. They began by using four discs as props, balancing them and gracefully dancing with them, and then started untying one layer of skirt after the other and whirling the skirts above their head. The first two layers of skirts had coloured lights on them, and each movement was like ribbons of light beautifully trailing in the air. The dancers danced for nearly thirty minutes, spinning continuously, and as we watched, I forgot all my tiredness and crankiness. The dinner itself was amazing; our Chicken Biryani and Chicken kasbeh cooked to perfection, and all the trouble from earlier seemed worth it. We came back home a happy bunch, still buzzing from that unexpected performance that left us speechless.

That performance just marked the beginning of the surprises that Dubai had to offer to us. Like the other evening, when we went out to Marina Walk just because we had been stuck inside the house all day, and we were suddenly greeted by a couple walking on stilts, all decked up in beautiful costume (the woman wore a gorgeous Victorian crinoline skirt) and sparkly make-up. A few minutes later, we saw three jugglers performing on the street in tune to lively music being played from their cart parked nearby. The day before yesterday, we went to The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residences, and happened to be there just in time for the Christmas show. With projection lights and a huge “tree” that served as a screen and nearly twenty performers making up for a forty minute show, it was like I had a hanger stuck in my face (F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference). The show had all sorts of acts, with a ballerina, live carollers, a contortionist, a juggler, dancers, gymnasts, and not to forget, the guy who balanced himself inside a gigantic hoop. This was again, unexpected, and we had no idea that we would get to witness something so grand, so Christmasy (there is no other word for it) on what was to be a casual stroll by the beach. Miss Munchkin happily sat on her dad’s shoulder and kept saying “Wow! Wow!” every other minute. The Husband, who is slightly crazier than I am about Christmas, looked like he had lights glowing inside of him, not kidding.

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To keep up with the theme, yesterday when we went to Souk Madinat for what was supposed to be just window shopping, at most a cup of tea and maybe snacks, we were greeted by this beautiful Christmas fair, complete with a toy train around the Christmas tree, a gingerbread decorating stall, face painting booths and of course food stalls, not to mention a boat ride on the canal with Santa himself conducting sing-along Christmas carols. The bit that pleased me the most was the bean bags and low settees and the artificial grass that simply called out to us to lounge and take in all the festivities. The ambiance, the people, the squealing kids with their faces painted, and the twinkly lights hanging from every possible place; this was Dubai going all out for Christmas. And it was a Dubai I had not seen before. Sure, I had heard about how this is the best time to be in Dubai, just as I had heard tales of its magnificence. But to encounter it first hand like this is something else.

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This is our fourth Christmas in the fourth country, and hands down the most “happening” so far. Or maybe it is us. We have changed too, and having a child  means we have started seeing things from the fresh perspective of a two year old. The smallest thing inspires delight, the tiniest light brings a twinkle to her eyes and in turn ours, and how can we not love Christmas jingles, when she starts dancing a silly jig the moment she starts hearing them? Having the parents over here is also like seeing Dubai through a new pair of eyes (or two) and all in all, it has been a simply magical and awe-inspiring season. To the Christmas spirit, and Dubai! Thanks for all the magic!
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