Santa Claus and Mrs Claus with diners at Mina’s Kitchen, at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, on Sunday
Santa Claus and Mrs Claus with diners at Mina’s Kitchen, at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, on Sunday Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: Christmas came early for over 130 members of Dubai’s British expat community as they were treated to a festive dinner, with all the trimmings, funded by fellow expats, in a bid to offer a helping hand to those less fortunate and to give back this holiday season.

As Mr and Mrs Claus arrived to spread festive cheer, members of the Real Brits in Dubai (RBID) Facebook group sat down for a traditional turkey dinner on Sunday at Mina’s Kitchen, at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, which was laid on by fellow Brits, to ensure anyone struggling did not miss out during the festive period.

Against the decorated backdrop of a white winter’s day with twinkling Christmas trees and tinsel lighting up the venue, the packed restaurant resonated with the sound of cheer from expats enjoying the company of others who, along with gifts, brought a sense of togetherness and unity.

“It’s all about giving back really,” Ian Sanders, the event organiser and RBID admin told Gulf News.

“We do an event every year, giving away hampers or dinners for those who might be struggling a bit, and this originally came about during COVID-19, when people were suffering quite badly, and we had a lot of members of the group say that they wanted to give back to the community. Some people are still having a bit of a tough time, so we decided to do a festive brunch and we’ve got a lot of people coming along for the enjoyment and excitement of [meeting] those [whom] they usually only interact with online,” he added.

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Ian Sanders (left) and Rob Mortimer (right) with Mr and Mrs Claus at the event Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Festive Edition event saw attendees enjoy a feast of live cooking stations and children’s entertainment, with tables funded by other British expats that regularly support those in the community, as Sanders explained.

“We have a couple of members in the Facebook group who help fund these kind of things and they enjoy bringing people together, it helps a lot of people out and so they’re happy to pay for occasions like this and we’re very lucky to have people like that.”

‘Do what you can to pay it forward’

Fellow RBID admin and organiser Rob Mortimer said: “We want to make sure there’s Christmas for everybody, especially the kids. We initially started trying to do networking for people because we saw that more and more Brits were being enticed to Dubai and to take a chance on jobs, then reality is sometimes different when they land. A lot of Brits are having to renew tourist visas and do border runs, so as a community we wanted to see what we could do to support others.”

He added: “What we’re all about is supporting the British community and since we’ve been going we have managed to help others and our ethos is, ‘do what you can to pay it forward’. We have lots of British businesses that are giving back and also now using the group to employ those looking for work.”

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Mrs Claus and a young guest share a light moment Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

The Facebook group, which has close to 16,000 members, has since developed into a registered company, ‘Real Brits in Dubai Marketing Services LLC’, which enables the group to assist those looking for jobs, help solve visa issues and create bespoke events for its members.

Abi Hendry, a British expat who moved to Dubai 18 months ago to launch a VIP ticketing business, heard about the group via Facebook and joined to ask advice, which led to her becoming friends with Mortimer and many other Brits online.

“It’s such a good community for people helping others, especially when you move abroad and you don’t always know how things work, I hadn’t been to Dubai before and only knew one person, so being able to go to a community and get questions answered is invaluable,” she said.

The Facebook group was set up five years ago and prides itself on being a resource for British expats residing in Dubai. Ian Paul, a Brit living in Dubai for 10 years, was among the diners at the festive brunch, and told Gulf News he’s a regular at these kind of events.

“It’s a great online community and it turns real with event like this and it’s great to have a face-to-face conversation, you try and look around for help sometimes and everyone in this community is very supportive, especially at this time of year and it’s for those reasons that keep us coming back,” he said.