While there is also an Islamic New Year observed in the United Arab Emirates, January 1st is also a public holiday – with New Year’s Eve celebrations welcoming in the Gregorian-calendar New Year with great fanfare every year.
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Although many holidays based on the Islamic calendar are moved when they fall on a weekend, for obvious reasons, this is not done with New Year’s Day. Both public and private sector workers in UAE will often be given a paid day off to free them up to celebrate.
Most citizens of UAE are Muslim, while most foreign workers and tourists are not, but everyone in UAE joins in to celebrate New Year’s Eve and Day regardless.
The main events are parties that culminate at the stroke of midnight, parades, and above all, huge fireworks displays. In both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the celebrations are gigantic, and every part of town is bustling with celebrants. Hotels, restaurants, malls, markets, and the very streets are alive through the whole evening of December 31st.
In 2014, Dubai had the world’s largest and longest recorded fireworks event, and every year since, they strive to break their own record. There are many great locations to see the “air show” from, both on land and water.
Many also throw house parties, and it is not too hard to get yourself invited to one. Many groups of tourists even organise their own parties, where every guest brings a dish to pass, creating a sizable feast. Some watch the fireworks on TV at their party, but others manage to both hold a party and rush out to see the fireworks in person. A third option is to eat out a local restaurant, frequently inside a hotel or resort.