Dubai // There promises to be craic by the Creek in Dubai this weekend as Sir Bob Geldof kicks off St Patrick's Day celebrations that will include traditional Irish dancing, sporting events and a lavish ball. The musician/activist, better known since the mid-80s for his charity work than the rock that first made him famous, will play Boomtown Rats hits at the Irish Village this evening to begin a party that promises to paint the town emerald green over the coming days.
Mark Povey, from the concert promoter Transguard, said Sir Bob was a great fan of Dubai and was enthusiastic about raising the curtain on this year's celebrations. "Bob doesn't perform very often so it is a rare opportunity to see him play. This is the fourth year he has come and it has become a tradition for him to start the party," he said. "He visits several times a year to promote his charity work and enjoys the chance to play music, which he doesn't have much time for these days. The concert will be staged, naturally, at the Irish Village, which will be the hub of the celebrations."
The Irish Village events, which run until Tuesday, will include traditional music and dancing, featuring local band Inis Orr. There are also Irish-themed evenings across the city, with pubs and clubs decking their bars with shamrocks. The most prestigious event promises to be the St Patrick's Day Ball, bringing together Irish business people and cultural and sporting personalities. It is the annual showcase event for the Dubai Irish Society, an organisation that seeks to promote Irish culture, traditions and language in the region.
Karen O'Donnell, the vice chair, said this year's ball would raise money for the Dubai Autism Centre. A new feature will be a Gaelic-speaking table, an initiative of a group called Ciorcal Comhra that is seeking to spread the use of the Irish language. As well as music and dancing, another key part of the celebrations will be traditional Irish sports. The Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club in Abu Dhabi will host the inter-provincial hurling championship, which will include leading Irish teams Connaught and Leinster, as well as the traditional poc fada game between local rivals Na Fianna of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Celts.
Darragh McGreevy, the chairman of the Dubai Celts, said they expected a 2,000-strong crowd: "We are hoping to create a carnival atmosphere at the event and lay on music and face-painting to keep children and families entertained. The matches will be shown on Irish television so there will be an extra incentive to play well. After the event the party will continue at the Irish Village and at the ball.
"It is a wonderful opportunity to bring the Irish community together and celebrate our culture." Rodger Talty, an Irish resident of Dubai, said the reason St Patrick's Day was so widely celebrated was that the emphasis is on fun and good humour rather than nationalistic displays or solemn parades. He said: "The Irish culture is very accessible, which is why people of all nations enjoy St Patrick's Day. There are Irish communities all over the world and it provides an opportunity to meet, network and celebrate our culture and heritage."