I had no idea what to expect - Christmas in an Islamic Country. It’s one thing coming on holiday here and having your Christmas on a beach in a five star hotel, but can Christmas be just like home here?
For the last 10 years or so, with the odd exception, we have had the traditional Christmas in the UK. Running around like crazy doing the final food shopping, church on Christmas morning, followed by hours in the kitchen preparing the Christmas meal and then taking about a half hour to eat it. We would then inevitably watch the Queen and settle down in front of a movie and fall asleep! Would this year be any different?
The UAE is a very tolerant country and enables us to celebrate Christmas freely. There are Christmas trees and decorations up in the malls (see picture), occasional festive songs on the radio, Christmas trees in the shops, and mince pies imported (albeit the ones without alcohol and working out at 60p each) from the UK! All of the hotels, without exception, offer a Christmas lunch/brunch menu, and you can even order a Christmas dinner (feeds 10 people for about £120) from the hotel which will be delivered directly to your door on the day itself. How’s that for service?!
So, what did we do?
I decided to do things a little differently this year. You may know that last year, Tim and I cooked for about 15 people for the final farewells before we left the UK. We spent hours in the kitchen preparing all manner of food and had a great, but very busy, day. We were kindly invited to party with friends, but we declined as we wanted the spend the day solely with the children.
So, after Tim got home from work on Christmas Eve, we tucked in to our roast dinner, with most of the trimmings, including home made pork, sage and onion stuffing, which you just can’t buy ready-made over here! We had a lovely meal and then got into the mood by putting all of our presents under the Christmas Tree.
We watched Santa working his way around the world on the NASA website (fabulous website where by satellite imagery, you can see exactly what part of the world Father Christmas and his reindeer are delivering presents at that precise moment – see picture). After putting out the mince pie and reindeer food for the greedy man, we all went to bed, in preparation for the big day!
After a false start at 2am, when Oliver decided it was time to get up, but the children didn’t do too badly and made it until 6.30am before piling in on top of us! We did a bit of present opening before breakfast and valiantly tried to save some presents for the afternoon.
I had made the brave/stupid decision that I wasn’t going to cook on Christmas Day, so we had strawberries and croissants for breakfast and then for lunch, we got in the car and drove to the Marina for lunch, where there are piles of restaurants. The weather was in the mid-20s under blue skies, so it was beautiful to sit outside. We had our pick of eateries – most were 80% empty, so we had a relaxed lunch sitting out in the sunshine next to the boats and we all ate a slap up lunch for about £37. Admittedly not turkey, but we’d had that the night before. Perfect! The children had a run around and it was then back for more presents!
The afternoon continued as it does all over the world – the Queen is available to view on You Tube from 3pm on Christmas Day (for us foreigners), so tradition can continue. Then, the over indulged parents had a traditional snooze on the sofa, while the children watch a Disney movie. We phoned the family back in Blighty and had fun talking to people. Supper was a few baked sausage rolls (oh no, I COOKED!) and some Boursin on crusty bread. Perfect!
Whilst we clearly missed our family and friends, we had a lovely time. It was incredibly liberating not having to spend hours in the kitchen – for once, it was MY Christmas day too and I could join in with everyone! I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone!
It felt just like being on holiday!!!