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Dubai and UAE events calendar

Wednesday 16 January 2019 (UAE)   

Dubai events calendar, also Abu Dhabi and other UAE emirates

Events calendar for Dubai and UAE 2019, 2020, and beyond. List of annual major events in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and UAE with approximate dates, locations, information, and guide. Not a complete list.

  • Ramadan - is a special period in the Islamic calendar. The dates shift forward about 2 weeks on the Gregorian calendar each year. Ramadan 2010 dates are approximately 11 August to 09 September 2010.
  • All events listed below are yearly, unless otherwise stated.
  • This list is intended as a guide to significant or major regular events in Dubai and UAE with approximate dates, not specific dates for a particular year.
  • Event dates can change suddenly, and/or events can be cancelled. Especially likely if a ruler of one of the UAE emirates passes away (for example, several events were cancelled after Sheikh Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, died on 04 January 2006).
  • To add an annual (or biennial) event you think should be listed here, send us an email, or start a topic in the UAE events forum, with details including first year the event was run, approximate time of year, duration, contact number - email - website, organiser name.

See comments about event organisation in Dubai below the list of events.

  • Abu Dhabi Golf Championship - mid January, 4 days, first one in 2006.
  • Dubai Desert Classic - golf competition, end of January, one week, first one in 1989 (which is so long ago in Dubai time, it's like saying the Middle Ages in any other country).
  • Dubai Marathon - mid January, on a Friday. First marathon run in 1998 (in November).
  • Dubai Shopping Festival - middle or end of January to middle or end of February, about one month long. First one in 1996.
  • Global Village - international flea-market and carnival, starts November, ends February/March.
  • Six Continents Abu Dhabi (Dec 2013 until Mar 2014). Similar to a smaller version of Global Village in Dubai.
  • Dubai International Jazz Festival - mid to late February for about 10 days. First event in 2003. Some performances start in January.
  • Dubai Shopping Festival - starts in January, ends in February.
  • Dubai Tennis Championship - women in the third week, men in the last week (might go into March). Each tournament is one week long.
  • Dubai Tour - bicycle race around Dubai and out to Hatta. First held in 2014, 4 days from 05-08 Feb 2014.
  • Gourmet Abu Dhabi - festival for gluttons and chefs. Ten days to 2 weeks, early to mid February. First fry-up was in 2009. Expensive and posh, although there might be some free events.
  • Global Village - starts November, ends February/March.
  • International Defence Exhibition Abu Dhabi (IDEX) - end of February, several days, biennial (odd numbered years), a military equipment exhibition. First one in 1993? Also, starting 2011, NAVDEX - a navy exhibition at the same time.
  • Sharjah Light Festival - displays of colorful lights shining on buildings in Sharjah, and other events, organized by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). In 2014 from 06-14 Feb with light shows at locations including Al Majaz Mosque, Al Majaz Waterfront, Al Qasba, Central Souq, Cultural Palace Square, King Faisal Mosque, Kuwait Square, Sharjah Municipality (new building at Kuwait Sq). Also showing in Dibba, Kalba, and Khorfakkan on the East Coast. Best time for viewing is at night. Lights are on from 1900-2300 weekdays and until 2400 at weekends. Website at www.sharjahlightfestival.ae and www.slf.ae (same website at both locations).
  • Six Continents Abu Dhabi (Dec 2013 until Mar 2014).
  • Abu Dhabi Boat Show - mid March, only for the rich and famous. By invitation only?
  • Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival - ballet, opera, classical music concerts, Arab music. Duration about 2 weeks, end of March to early April. First one in 2004.
  • Art Dubai - international and Middle East art exhibition at the Madinat Jumeirah in the 3rd week of March. Started in 2007 as the Gulf Art Fair but changed its name because the domain name www.gulfartfair.com made people snigger too much.
  • Camel Racing Festival - at Al Wathba Camel race track in Al Ain. Held in mid-March, about one week long?
  • Dubai International Boat Show - early March, a few days, first one in 1992.
  • Dubai World Cup (world's richest horse race) - last Saturday in March. First held in 1996.
  • Festival of Literature - one for the bookworms who live amongst us. First one held in 2009.
  • Sharjah International Art Biennial - every 2 years (odd-numbered years), from mid-March to mid-May in 2009 (early April to early June before that). First one in 1993. The 10th edition held from 16 March to 16 May 2011. Eleventh edition dates 13 March to 13 May 2013 (announced 30 May 2012).
  • Sikka Art Fair - in Bastakiya, runs alongside the Art Dubai exhibition. Started in 2011 as a new version of the old Bastakia Art Fair?
  • Six Continents Abu Dhabi (Dec 2013 until Mar 2014). Like Global Village in Dubai.
  • Taste of Dubai - food festival but with overpriced food offerings, seems to be more of a marketing gimmick for Dubai restaurants. Four days, mid March. The nonsensical Dellas (ToD currency) were thankfully abandoned for the 2011 event.
  • Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival - starts end of March.
  • Dubai Fashion Week (DFW) - launched in 2006, biannual event in April and October or November, but cancelled for April 2012. And again for November 2012 (03 Oct 2012 news reports)?
  • Gulf Film Festival - in Dubai, started in 2008, duration about 1 week to 10 days. Not as international as DIFF or ADFF (MEIFF).
  • Sharjah International Art Biennial - starts March, ends May
  • Dubai Airport Show - annual event, started in 2000? A trade exhibition about airports, not aircraft. Not the same as the much higher profile Dubai Airshow held every 2 years in November.
  • Sharjah International Art Biennial - starts March, ends May
  • Dubai Summer Surprises - starts in June, ends in August
  • Dubai Summer Surprises - starts in June, ends in August
  • Abu Dhabi Film Festival - about 10 days in early to mid October. Started in 2007 as the Middle East Film Festival, renamed from 2010.
  • Abu Dhabi Science Festival - from 10-20 October in 2012, at ADNEC and other locations in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Gharabiya. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC) with science related activities and exhibits for children. First event held in 2011. In November for 2013 (see entry for November).
  • Cityscape Dubai, renamed as Cityscape Global after the Dubai property market crashed in 2008. One of several annual property exhibitions in the UAE. Lots of models of buildings and property projects in Dubai, the UAE, the Middle East region, and sometimes further afield. And other sorts of models with clipboards ready to take your deposit cheques on new developments that might not get built. First week in October, duration several days.
  • Dubai Fashion Week - biannual event in April and October or November ... maybe, both 2012 events cancelled.
  • Gulf Bike Week (Gulf Bike Festival). 2013 dates 24-26 October 2013, at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. 2012 dates 18-20 October. Website www.gulfbikeweek.com.
  • Abu Dhabi Art - art festival in November, first one in 2009 at the Emirates Palace Hotel. In 2011 held in the UAE Pavillion on Saadiyat Island. In 2012 in the Saadiyat Cultural District on Saadiyat Island from 07-10 November 2012.
  • Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix - end October or beginning of November (probably, unless schedule changes). Date for 2010 is 14 November for the final race.
  • Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) - oil and gas show in November. Biennial up to 2012, annual after that? In 2012, from 11-14 November.
  • Abu Dhabi Science Festival (ADSF) - dates from 14-23 November 2013 (was in October in 2012 at ADNEC). First ADSF was in 2011. New locations for 2013 include the Abu Dhabi Corniche East Plaza, Yas Island Du forum. 2013 event announced by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development committee (TDC) on 23 Sep 2013. Aimed at students aged 5-15 years old but attendance not restricted to that age group. ADSF 2013 plans to hire university level students to deliver science programs and demonstrations at the festival from the following colleges and universities based in the UAE: Abu Dhabi Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi University, Al Ain University for Science and Technology, Al Hosn University, Emirates College for Advanced Education, Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT ADW branch, unknown which others included), Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE University, and Zayed University (announcement said 11 universities but included HCT twice by listing Abu Dhabi Women's College branch HCT separately).
  • Art Paris Abu Dhabi - art show in 3rd week of November, started in 2007.
  • Dubai Airshow - biennial event (every 2 years - odd-numbered years), supposed to be trade only but anyone with a business card, a passport, and the entry fee can usually enter if they're not too shabby looking. First one in 1989. Usually breaks world records for the largest number of press releases in one week about Emirates Airlines new aircraft purchases.
  • Dubai Fashion Week - biannual event in April and October or November ... maybe, both 2012 events cancelled.
  • Dubai Helishow - biennial helicopter show, in 2012 from 06-08 November at the Meydan Racecourse. Website www.dubaihelishow.com.
  • Dubai Rugby Sevens - Dubai's biggest annual party, held under the guise of a rugby tournament. Not for the faint of heart.
  • Dubai World Championship golf tournament - 4 days, mid to late November. If you're not a golfer, you might actually be pleasantly surprised when attending a golf competition. You get closer to the players than in most other countries, and the greens and fairways make a nice change from all the sand.
  • Global Village - large flea market and small theme park in Dubai. From early November to end of February or early March. First one in 1996.
  • Christmas - the UAE is a Muslim country, however visitors and residents might be surprised to discover that Christmas is celebrated to a certain extent. References to Christian themes are discouraged, but shopping malls have many other Christmas-related displays and events. If anything, Dubai appears more Christmassy than many western countries that have gone overboard with political correctness. Happy Holidays? What was wrong with Merry Christmas?
  • Dubai International Film Festival - 2nd-3rd week of December. First one in 2004.
  • Dubai International Rally - 1st week of December, started several milleniums ago in a galaxy far far away ... in 1978 when people thought Dubai was what sales people in Japan said to you.
  • Dubai Motor Show - mid-December, several days.
  • Global Village - starts November, ends February/March.
  • HOG MENA Rally - 2013 dates 05-07 December, at the Du forum Yas Island.
  • New Years Eve - Dubai hotels, bars, and nightclubs have party nights, for a price.
  • Six Continents Abu Dhabi (Dec 2013 until Mar 2014) - funfair, cultural shows, country pavilions, cafes.

Conferences and exhibitions not listed above

  • ADIPEC - Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, in November, first one in 1984, every two years until 2012, annual from 2013 (announced 03 Jul 2012). Website www.adipec.com.

Events in Dubai disorganized organization

Events in Dubai can be badly organized. This might not be obvious until the time of the event when ticket holders and other residents and visitors get caught in traffic jams or end up waiting for insufficient numbers of buses or taxis. Large concerts and other one-off events anywhere always result in some congestion, that is only to be expected. Waiting up to an hour to enter, or to be stuck in a traffic jam afterwards is not uncommon and sort of expected. However Dubai events seem to go for world record waiting and congestion times of several hours. Some of the things to watch for as warning signs that an event might be better avoided:

  • Promises by the event organisers that this time it's different and everything will flow smoothly.
  • Promises of free bus services from a large car park to the event venue.
  • Promises by organisers that there will be plenty of taxis available at the end of an event. Unknown if the RTA deliberately or accidently provides insufficient taxis, or if there is poor communication between the organisers and the RTA about taxi numbers required, but one thing is consistent: There are rarely enough taxis and many people wait for hours, not minutes.
  • Sudden last minute changes to how entry to the event is organised.
  • Events organised by event management companies that have a history of badly organised events (they rarely learn from their mistakes although their marketing department will tell you different).
  • Anything along Jumeirah Beach Road, in Downtown Dubai, on the Jumeirah Palm Island, in Dubai Marina and JBR area. Sometimes also Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City. One reason is that traffic congestion is bad enough in these places generally so a large event chokes things up even more, and getting stuck in traffic for several hours is not unusual. Dubai Marina and JBR especially from 2012-2014 while the Dubai Tram (Al Sufouh) construction work is in progress, is particularly bad.
  • Events with security checks of bags etc, especially if x-ray machines and scanners are involved. Insufficient gates and machines are provided, and waiting for several hours is possible. Additionally, event security can be poor, allowing disorder in the queueing system. A number of cultures don't have an orderly queueing mentality which frustrates those people from cultures where a queueing system more usual, and event organisers (the ones who care about such things that is).

Suggestions and advice for attending events in Dubai and the UAE

  • Go very early to avoid crowded entry gates. Bring drinking water if queing daytime (you probably won't be allowed to bring bottle into the venue but bad organisation means they should be empty by the time you get there).
  • Be prepared for illogical queueing systems and try not to worry about it.
  • Try and keep your cool when you see people ignoring queueing systems. Expect security officials to be inconsistent in what their tolerance is of bad behaviour, and expect them to have a go at you if you put your foot wrong.
  • Go very early to find a car park. But also have a careful look at the car park arrangement and organisation. Many drivers in the UAE park badly and inconsiderately, they will find places to park which can leave your car blocked in, especially when there is insufficient car parking, and/or the event is a long walk from the car park.
  • Leave an event or concert before it finishes to escape before everyone else does, especially the car park. Also especially if catching a taxi home. Also especially if catching a metro home and the event is popular with metro travellers - the non-existence of a queueing mentality in the UAE is especially evident on the metro.
Sandance and fireworks on Jumeirah Palm New Years Eve 2013 organisation
  • Road closures were announced with dedicated bus lanes to take people to the Sandance concert. However, road closures didn't seem to happen they way they were announced, resulting in serious traffic jams on Palm Island, which then resulted in buses getting stuck for several hours and many didn't get to the concert at all.
  • Even the ones who chose to walk (a long walk) were prevented by Dubai Police from accessing the venue when they got to the road tunnel at the end of the Palm Island trunk road.
  • According to several reports and first-hand accounts, insufficient buses were provided resulting in large crowds waiting at the American University car park temporary bus station, and there was poor or no organisation and security resulting in fights and scuffles.
  • The Dubai Police, the RTA, the Sandance organisers, the security company, the fireworks organisers, Nakheel Properties all said it wasn't their fault. Which boils down to it was your fault for going there to watch the fireworks and/or attend the Sandance event.
  • The Sandance organisers offered ticket refunds to all ticketholders for that event, and a 50% discount for tickets to the next Sandance melee.
Last update Monday 28-Apr-2014. Page development 1H 2T 3D 4L 5C.
Related pages
Related websites (new window)
  • www.dubaicalendar.ae - official Dubai events calendar website. Official as in operated by the DTCM, a Dubai government department. Your neighbour's BBQ is probably not listed. Website doesn't work properly though - cannot search for past events. Check Time Out Dubai or What's On for concerts and other events - not all are in the DTCM listing.


Abu Dhabi AUH ABD ADB, Ajman AJM, Al Ain AAN, Dubai DXB, Fujairah FUJ, Ras Al Khaimah RAK, Sharjah SHJ, Umm Al Quwain UAQ

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