Droves of people may leave the Gulf over the hot summer months, writes Ben Flanagan whether for an Eid getaway or a longer break during the annual ‘expat exodus’. But there are still goings-on both here and in the surrounding region – notably Lebanon – during July and August. Here’s a brief guide to the top 10 events on your doorstep this summer.
Ramadan events in the UAE
Where: Various venues
When: Until Eid
The holy month of Ramadan is marked in the UAE with a host of activities, many of which are open to residents and tourists of different faiths. In Abu Dhabi, the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open as usual over Ramadan, although with limited hours for non-Muslims on Fridays.
The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre is hosting the Ramadan and Eid Festival 2015 (17 June to 16 July), which features traditional celebrations, shopping, Arabic food, and games. Other events include ‘Ramadan on The Walk’, in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence district (until July 25), which features different zones inspired by Arab culture. And The Majlis, an annual event at the Dubai World Trade Centre, offers daily iftar (7pm-8pm) and suhoor (9pm-3am, or 4am at weekends), with an admission cost of Dh140 per person.
Beiteddine Art Festival
Where: Beiteddine Palace, Chouf, Lebanon
When: 29 July to 5 September
English rock singer-songwriter David Gray (song cue: ‘Babylon’) and Peruvian operatic tenor Juan Diego Flórez (the so-called ‘heir to Pavarotti’, much to the annoyance of many music buffs) are two of the headliners at this summer’s Beiteddine Art Festival. The festival is one of the leading cultural events in the Middle East, and this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, having first been held during the Lebanese Civil War.
Art exhibitions and performances by Lebanese composer Marcel Khalifé and the Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra are also part of the line-up, with big events held sporadically over almost six weeks. The acts are impressive but the setting steals the show: The venue is the ornate Beiteddine Palace, a jewel of 19th century Lebanese architecture, overlooking the terraced Chouf mountains 45km southeast of Beirut.
Tickets: Prices vary. Tickets for Juan Diego Flórez range from LBP75,000-375,000 ($50-$250) depending on seating. David Gray tickets cost between $50-$120.
Dubai Shopping Festival
Where: Across the city
When: 23 July to 5 September
A very different kind of festival is held in the UAE each summer: Dubai Summer Surprises, the annual celebration of shopping as performance art, is back for its 18th season. Over 6000 retail outlets participate in the shop-til-you-drop fest, offering discounts of up to 70 per cent… although it’s important to remember the “up to” in that sentence.
There’s also the usual array of entertainment and Dh5.5 million of prizes – including cars, cash and shopping vouchers – up for grabs. The festival is a feature of malls and other venues across the city – you certainly won’t miss it.
Where: Dubai World Trade Centre
When: 9 July to 29 August
No summer in Dubai is complete without the yellow, worm-like, ever-grinning Modhesh bouncing into our collective consciousness, invited or otherwise. The summer shopping mascot has inspired mixed reactions among citizens: Kids invariably love it; someone – an adult, presumably – once posted a Facebook group called “Death to Modhesh”.
Modhesh World is aimed very much at those in the former camp. There are games, rides, interactive experiences, an indoor GoKarting track, and mirror maze. Guaranteed fun – or panic attack, depending on your take on it – at every turn.
Habib Elyasi Live
When: 19 July
Where: du Forum, Abu Dhabi
Habib Elyasi, the singing sensation billed as one of the most promising stars of Emirati music, is performing in the UAE capital. The event is part of the wider Abu Dhabi Summer Season – a 12-week programme of comedy acts, children’s events and concerts. For more details see: abudhabievents.ae
Byblos International Festival 2015
WHEN: 13 July to 18 August
WHERE: Byblos, Lebanon
More musical treats can be had at the Byblos International Festival in Lebanon, where the line-up includes nine-time Grammy winner singer-songwriter John Legend, Irish stadium-rockers The Script, and UK alternative rock band Alt-J. The festival is located in the Mediterranean city of Byblos, about 42 kilometres north of Beirut.
Tickets: Prices vary: John Legend ($60-$150), The Script ($50-$120), Alt-J ($50-$90)
Dubai Sports World 2015
Where: Dubai World Trade Centre
When: 21 June to 29 August
Dubai, summer, and outdoor sport do not mix. But you can escape the heat with this indoor sports arena that includes playing fields, basketball, volleyball, tennis courts and more.
The Outlawz Live in Dubai
When: 6 August 2015
Where: The Music Room – Majestic Hotel – Bur Dubai
The American hip-hop group, which was formed in 1995 by the late and legendary rapper Tupac, is providing more musical respite to Dubai residents over the hot summer months.
Qatar Summer Festival 2015
When: 1-31 August
Where: Across Doha
Qatar also attempts to lure in visitors over the summer, promoting local attractions under the Qatar Summer Festival banner. The month-long festival includes special hotel packages, cultural events and the Entertainment City at Doha Exhibition Centre, which includes skate boarding and rock climbing.
Saudi summer festivals
Where: Across the kingdom
When: Until mid-August
Saudi Arabia does not just have one summer festival – it has 57. The local tourism agency announced a programme of events to span the summer months, ending in mid-August, including entertainment, cultural, heritage, social and sports programmes. Riyadh province will host four summer events alone, including the Riyadh Shopping and Entertainment Festival.