As part of its effort to lure tourists to the city, the Dubai authorities have encouraged the
development of several major sporting and cultural events. All of these, with the exception of Dubai Summer Surprises, take place between October and March.
Equipped with a prize fund of a million dollars, the Dubai Marathon attracts the
biggest names in long-distance running. For the opportunity to compete with them
over 26 miles, you have to register by the end of the previous year. Less energetic
types can enter a 10km run or a 4km ‘fun run’.
DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL
Reports of Russian millionaires chartering passenger jets so they can return from the
Dubai Shopping Festival with planeloads of purchases are probably exaggerated,
but the annual instalment of DSF certainly at
tracts millions of tourists each year. Don’t
expect to find stupendous bargains in the malls; the sale prices are rarely spectacular.
Do expect to find plenty of live music, kids’ events, sporting activities, nightly fireworks
over the Creek, and the hugely popular Global Village, which runs for three months
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL JAZZFESTIVAL
Held in the week following the Shopping Festival, this increasingly popular event
is staged at Dubai Media City over three nights. While the mainstream is well catered
for, jazz purists may sneer at the choice of performers, with recent headliners
including Toto, ELO, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, and Roger Hodgson of
DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC
Until November 2009, when the biggest names on the greens will compete for a
US$10-million prize purse at the first Dubai World Championship, the Dubai Desert Classic remains the emirate’s leading golf event. It takes place on the first weekend of February at the immaculate Emirates Golf Club, and has earned a reputation for delivering high drama on the last day of competition.
DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Held over two weeks in February and March, the championships consist of a
Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) event followed by an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) event. It’s a great opportunity to see some of the best players in the world in a relatively small stadium. Ticket prices – especially for the earlier rounds – offer
great value for money.
DUBAI DESERT ROCK
Dubai’s surprisingly large contingent of Goths can be spotted nervously adjusting to sunlight in the mosh-pits of this annual live rock music event. In recent years, headliners of the two-day festival have included Iron Maiden, Robert Plant, Megadeth and Muse.
The arrival of this ambitious international art fair in 2007 confirmed that art is big
business in the Gulf, despite a lack of major galleries. The Madinat Jumeirah provides a
suitably glamorous setting for the artists, dealers and gallery owners to mingle in
and show off their stuff.
DUBAI WORLD CUP
The Dubai International Racing Carnival, running from February through to the end of
March, culminates in the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race and the city’s
biggest social event. While there’s no betting, many of Dubai’s society women take a
punt in wearing some of the silliest hats this side of the Melbourne Cup. Godolphin, the
stable owned by Dubai’s royal family, tends to dominate proceedings on the racetrack.
June, July & August
DUBAI SUMMER SURPRISES
Perhaps the most surprising thing about DSS is that it manages to attract any visitors
at all. It takes place, after all, at the sweaty height of the sweltering summer.
But a combination of free kids’ entertainment, sales in shopping malls, and Modhesh,
a springy yellow mascot, draws in plenty of tourists from other Gulf nations.
UAE DESERT CHALLENGE
This desert rally, the final race of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, starts in Abu
Dhabi and finishes in Dubai. It’s held over five days, takes in some challenging terrain,
and attracts car, truck and motorbike riders.
DESERT RHYTHM FESTIVAL
Following the success of the second instalment of Desert Rhythm in 2007, at which
Kanye West, Mika, Joss Stone and Madness made their UAE debuts, it seems likely that
this two-day music festival will go from strength to strength in the coming years.
DUBAI RUGBY SEVENS
Part of the IRB World Sevens Series, the Dubai Rugby Sevens features 16 international
squads, a huge number of amateur teams and live entertainment over three
days. While England and Australia receive plenty of support from the mainly expatriate
crowd, the Arabian Gulf team, consisting of players from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar,
Saudi, Oman and the UAE, get the biggest cheers of the day.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FILM
Independent and art-house cinema is thin on the ground in Dubai, making this
excellent non-competitive film festival the cultural highlight of the year for the city’s
cinephiles. There’s a focus on cinema from Arab countries and the Indian subcontinent,
while visits from the likes of George Clooney, Sharon Stone and Morgan
Freeman help get the public excited.