DUBAI // Shopping malls and hotels braced for a busy holiday weekend as the long Eid Al Adha break attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the UAE.
Experts expect Dubai in particular to reap the benefit of regional and international campaigns promoting it as the place to come for entertainment and shopping.
In Abu Dhabi, EidFest promises activities for all ages over the long weekend. Eleven booths have been set up to welcome visitors with Arabic coffee, dates and henna painting.
A special tent on the Corniche will feature an extended activity lineup, including a falconer, photo booth, calligrapher and Harbeya band.
The weather will encourage many outdoors to beaches and barbecues, with the high a balmy 36-38°C, falling to 25°C at night.
"The weather in general will be nice this weekend," said a forecaster at the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology.
Relative humidity will increase early in the mornings, leading to the possibility of light fog. "It won't be too dense, so it won't be dangerous, but people should take care when driving in the morning," the forecaster said.
Malls in Dubai are hopeful of double-digit growth in visitors on top of the already buoyant numbers after the start of 24-hour shopping last week.
"We are expecting very high levels of footfall this weekend," said Baiju Kuriesh, spokesman for the Dubai Shopping Malls Group.
"This weekend we are expecting a peak especially for the night shopping because of all the tourists who will be in town so I wouldn't be surprised to see further double-digit growth."
The Eid feelgood factor is expected to continue through to next week with many GCC nationals choosing to stay in the UAE for an extended period, he said.
"We have many Saudis in town and they are enjoying a 16-day holiday so you are seeing lots of families in Dubai choosing to stay on even after Eid."
Mercato Mall in Dubai has brought in extra staff to cope with the increase in visitors.
"We are currently witnessing a big number of callers asking for our schedule of events during the Eid break and all other activities we have prepared for the 10-day celebration period we are hosting at Mercato until October 29," a mall spokeswoman said.
Dubai International Airport is predicting a 15 per cent increase on its 140,000 daily arrivals.
"We expect more arrivals than departures because the Eid break is quite short in the UAE so I think more people will probably stay in Dubai," said Majed Al Joker, vice-president of terminal operations at the airport.
In Abu Dhabi, the regional finale of the Rest Upon the Wind world tour will take place on Saturday at the Emirates Palace hotel. It is the last chance to see the West End theatrical stage production based on the life and times of Gibran Khalil Gibran, the third-bestselling poet of all time and celebrated author of The Prophet.
Tickets start at Dh195 from timeouttickets.com or by calling 800 4669.
Shopfest, an Arabian-themed bazaar featuring dozens of clothing, painting, fabric and handicraft stalls, remains open until Saturday.
For the little ones, Barney and Friends will put on a 90-minute show twice daily at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from tomorrow until Sunday. Tickets are Dh99 from boxofficeme.com or by calling 800 90.
Other residents are taking advantage of the holiday to jet out of the country.
"We have seen a huge demand from people wishing to go to places like Thailand and Malaysia, which are traditional destinations," said Premjit Bangara from Sharaf Travel in Dubai.
Growing numbers of holidaymakers are also being attracted by budget airlines' offering flights to Turkey and Sri Lanka.
"I wouldn't say we are back to boom-year levels of business but this will be the busiest Eid break we have seen for many years," Mr Bangara said.
Visitor numbers from India and China have also been growing. "However, the main influx will be from Saudi, Bahrain and Oman. These flights are chockabloc full."
* Additional reporting by Martin Croucher