Dubai: UAE residents celebrating Christmas shared festive cheer with loved ones not just in the warmth of their homes and within the sacred halls of churches but even amidst the serene mountains and in the open sea.
Scottish expat Stuart Ramsay enjoyed the perfect family time this Christmas.
“My parents are visiting from Scotland. It’s the first time they’ve been out in the UAE at Christmas,” said Ramsay, a director at a classifieds portal.
“My wife is Ukrainian, so our family celebrations are a mix of British and Ukrainian traditions, which is really nice. Yesterday [Sunday] we had breakfast at West Beach together. It’s a huge difference to winter in Scotland, being able to spend Christmas Eve at the beach. Then we had a beautiful Turkey dinner and invited some friends. Today, we opened our presents to each other beside the Christmas tree.”
The family was due to go for a walk to The Sustainable City with their dog, and head out for dinner at a luxury hotel.
Reunion after 12 years
For Filipina expat Jo Anne Lumbis, it was a much-awaited family time for Christmas this time. A restaurant manager in Dubai, she has not been able to visit home for Christmas for 14 years due to her work commitments.
“My younger sister Abbie moved to Dubai earlier this year and it was for the first time in 14 years that I got to celebrate Christmas with a family member. And it is the first time after 12 years that we spent a Christmas together,” she said.
She added the sisters prayed together, video-called family members back home and partied at a hotel. “I also enjoyed the Christmas vibes at my accommodation in Dubai Marina with all the decorations and lights put up by my landlady.”
Wonderful Christmas vibes
American expat Jason Moore said he enjoys the company of friends during Christmas here. “As a bachelor, I’m fortunate to have tonnes of wonderful friends from all around the world here in Abu Dhabi, ‘the land of selfless hospitality’, as I described it in chapter one of the book ‘Entrepreneur’s Journey, an early stage guide for Abu Dhabi’, by Caxton Publishing and Abu Dhabi DED,” he added.
“Last year, I spent a white Christmas with my family in Charleston, West Virginia. This year, I’m with close friends of multiple nationalities enjoying the festive Christmas spirit and beautiful decorations around both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. One of my old best friends, Pete Rafferty, who used to live in the UAE for 20 years, flew out to Abu Dhabi with his wife and kids yesterday to celebrate Christmas and I am looking forward to hanging out with them once the kids get over their jet lag,” said Moore, an entrepreneur and a business advisor.
Slovenian environmentalist and writer Martina Sumenjak Sabol said she enjoyed the Christmas vibes during her visit to Dubai. “I have been visiting the UAE since 1995. This time, I came over after a gap of seven years to attend the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28. I am staying a little longer for work and I am absolutely enjoying the wonderful Christmas vibes here,” she added.
“I love seeing and capturing all the Christmas decorations in the malls and public places here. I got an early Christmas present when I managed to meet my Indian family friends after seven years. In our culture, we stay home with family during the day of Christmas. So I met them over the weekend.”
Celebration at sea, on mountain
Indian expat Ajin P Joy said his family enjoyed a yacht party this time for Christmas along with a group of family friends. “We went to the church for the mass first and then took the yacht for a three-hour ride. We got the yacht decorated for the celebration. We were happy to see the DSF drone show also,” added Joy, who works with the marketing department of a media concessionary in Dubai.
Meanwhile, around 100 members of the adventurers’ group A4A literally went the extra mile for a unique Christmas celebration. They trekked the Al Rabi hiking trail and marked the festivities atop the mountain 1400 feet above the sea level.
“Our group’s name A4A refers to ‘A for Adventure’. We organise adventurous trips to mark all special occasions. This Christmas, we decided to celebrate in the mountains. We organised Christmas carol, Secret Santa gifting, Jesus’ crib with manger, Christmas tree and cake distribution as part of the celebrations. Many competitions were conducted and the winners were given attractive prizes,” said Sree Hari North Kottachery from the group.