Not going home for Eid? Top things expats can do in Dubai

It is Eid and if you live in Dubai, the likelihood is you are planning a weekend filled with trips to the shopping malls

Peter Harrison

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It is Eid and if you live in Dubai, the likelihood is you are planning a weekend filled with trips to the shopping malls, fast food restaurants and the cinema to see the latest Hollywood release – but you could always do something different, like go and meet the ruler of Dubai.

In recent years, Eid al-Fitr has become a time when people travel to cities like Dubai and sit in long queues of traffic waiting to enter the vast modern shopping malls and trawl through the sprawling store-lined lanes looking to pick up a festive bargain.

Entertainers lay on shows for the children as their weary parents enjoy the opportunity to rest their painful legs and feet. Others use the holiday to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster releases, after the holy month of Ramadan when few if any new movies hit the big screen

But Nasif Kayed, managing director of the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding, said, while these activities were not necessarily bad, they rather missed the point of what the holiday represented.

“You can shop 365 days a year, why do you need to do this on Eid? You should do something that only happens on the Eid day that will not happen at other times,” explained Kayed.

“There are things that you can do that people probably don’t even know about, such as go to and meet Sheikh and say ‘Eid Mubarak’ to him. And this is not just for we Emiratis to say Eid Mubarak to him, many of the expats who have lived here for a long time also take advantage of this too.”

He said that thousands of people in previous years have driven to Zabeel Palace, parked their cars, walked in and stood in line until it is their time to greet Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum and other senior representatives of Dubai and the UAE.

And according to Kayed, people don’t just give seasonal greetings - some even use the opportunity as a chance to say something to him.

Kayed explained: “If you have something nice to say, then why not? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Dare to be different

He said that Eid was about the adventure of doing something different, it was about spending time with loved ones and celebrating together.

But it is not just the expats who maybe need to buck the trends of malls, burgers and movies. Kayed said even he had to encourage his children to dare to be different.

He explained: “We might go to a seafood restaurant and they order a burger. I say to them ‘what are you doing? We are in a seafood restaurant you need to eat seafood.”

The main aspect of Eid is spending time with people you care about and spreading good will. Visiting, said Kayed, is the ‘number one’ thing to do.

And if you have no family nearby then why not visit a neighbor?

He said: “You go to the door, ring the bell, sometimes the door is even open. They’ll greet you and you introduce yourself and say ‘by the way I live three doors down from I just wanted to say Eid Mubarak.

“They might invite you in and you could have coffee and dates, you might have dessert and you might even have a chat with the person.”

Visiting a complete stranger, just because they live next door might seem like an odd concept for many Westerners, but Kayed said he encouraged it

“It’s (Eid) the most amazing time because nobody is going to frown, no one is going to say they don’t have time… Everybody is in a good mood, it is contagious - you cannot be the only person who is being miserable, because everyone is happy and it rubs off on everybody.”
What’s more, he said, you even just happen to make a new friend.

Venturing out

For those who still feel compelled to venture out in the summer heat can visit the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding in Bur Dubai, which will be open on Saturday and Sunday.

Alternatively if you still want to brave the many bustling malls, there will be the chance to catch the many new releases at the cinema. Alternatively, parents can venture down to Ibn Battuta Mall where the show being advertised across Dubai’s various media platforms is a special performance for the three days of Eid holiday called “The Magical Box Ballerina.”

It is free and offers parents a chance to sit down and rest their weary legs.

Of course if the heat does not bother you and you are one of the few that is not feeling sociable, then there are always the beaches and golf courses.

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