Last night, we went to a Swiss Christmas Market in one of the hotels downtown. It was held in the courtyard out back between the restaurants and backing up to the beach. It was a pretty legit Christmas Market, as far as those go: cute little Swiss chalets draped in fairy lights, a children’s choir singing carols, a giant Christmas tree draped in tasteful decor, piped-in smells of fir, a life-sized gingerbread house, and – like all good events catered towards expats – an outdoor bar with gluhwein, spiked hot chocolate, and beer. Most of what I know about Christmas Markets comes from the ones in Prague and Berlin after we spent time there during the holidays in both 2012 and 2013, so I consider myself able to recognize legitimacy. Those markets are no joke.
Where the event lost authenticity for being Christmassy because it was 72°F and held under a swath of palm trees next to a beachfront, it gained in interesting gifts. I won’t say too much about what we bought (because they are SURPRISES!) but we did get ourselves two presents: a beautiful Arabic-inspired print and a framed photo from an artist based here.
Western expats often criticize Abu Dhabi for it’s lack of “holiday feel,” and it’s true that on face-value it’s probably packs significantly less of a Christmas wallop than, say, Rockefeller Center. But if you go looking, Christmas can be found in Abu Dhabi and it’s actually quite a festive time of year.
Many hotels and restaurants that cater primarily to expats deck their halls with – if not boughs of holly – ample fake pine branches and fairy lights, and there are some pretty spectacular trees to be behold. Ace Hardware – the place I go to buy things like Oxo kitchen-ware and kitty litter pans – has a robust Christmas section as evidenced by our flat which currently is decked to the gills and looks a little like, say, Rockefeller Center. I went a little overboard this year. Because….
…..this year, we will be celebrating with a little extra holiday cheer because my family is making the trip out to visit. Mom, Dad, and Bro are flying out on the 23rd to spend Christmas in the desert with us. We’ve rounded up a bunch of expats who are sticking around for the holiday and will be doing Christmas brunch, Abu Dhabi-style, and it should all be very festive and merry.
As an added bonus, the cats have so far treated the Christmas tree with total apathy. Every morning, I fear finding the thing on its side with ornaments akimbo. They’ve sniffed at it, yawned, and been content to mess with the tree skirt. I fear the day they look up.
In other news, this is now my second Christmas in the desert and I am fast coming up on two years here in Abu Dhabi. A relatively short period of time compared to some stays, but I still can’t quite believe that I’m even here.