ABU DHABI // If you want them, there will be fireworks. If you want them, there are special package deals available from restaurants and hotels too. But many people are electing to celebrate the arrival of a new year in the quiet company of family and friends.
Traditionally Muslim Arabs do not celebrate new year according to the Gregorian calendar, which is also known as the western or Christian calendar. Emiratis celebrated only the two Eids and the Islamic new year, said Maryam al Ashkhari, 23, from Al Ain.
"Some Emiratis celebrate it, but very little, and they don't do anything special except exchange greetings," she said.
Sami Hussein, 23 from Dubai, added: "It is like Christmas. Not our holiday".
Some Arabs, however, are increasingly swayed by western customs to ring in the new year.
Abdulrahman Suffian, 22, a Palestinian, said some young Emiratis and other Arabs celebrated with night car parades.
"It's an excuse to party … you will find a lot of crazy people driving up and down Jumeirah road or Almanzar road in Dubai, or on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, with decorated cars, loud music, just all showing off," he said.
Clair Hany and Mark Sulaiman, a Christian couple from Egypt, will be spending the evening feasting with family.
"We will have a seafood night, we normally have this every year," Mr Sulaiman said. "It is a good time for our relatives, who are scattered in different parts of the world, to all come together."
There are no organised new year celebrations in the Pakistani community, as most choose to spend time with family or with friends.
"I will probably meet up with friends and we'll go to the beach to watch the fireworks," said Salman Qureshi, a 29-year-old corporate trainer who has lived in Dubai for 10 years. "The weather is fantastic now so most people I know will be doing stuff outdoors. Nothing is set in stone yet but we'll most likely have dinner somewhere, watch the celebrations and then head back to a friend's place to celebrate some more."
Fellow Pakistani expatriate Muddassir Tahir, 29, a consultant engineer with a technology company, has taken several days off to celebrate.
"The plan is to hit the beach, get some lunch at JBR and chill out at the malls before going out clubbing," he said.
Melvin Lozada, 52, an account sales manager in Dubai, said it had been a tradition among Filipinos to be with their families before midnight on December 24 and 31.
"About 80 per cent of Filipinos here will be celebrating new year's eve at home," he said. "Friends whose families are in the Philippines will be visiting us at 8pm. There will be dancing and karaoke singing until 3am."
Filipino new year specialties include embutido, a Filipino style of meatloaf, a marinated fish called kinilaw na isda and desserts such as kutsinta, a special rice cake. They are also expected to prepare 13 different kinds of fruit to bring good luck and prosperity for the family in the coming year.
"I won't be attending any of those wild parties," said Earl Palacios, 43, an aviation instructor in Abu Dhabi. "The family will be having a late dinner and stay awake until midnight. I have to get up early the next day for work."
Amorsolo Dagdag, 44, a Dubai-based photographer, said he and his friends would be blowing traditional paper toy horns and have some firecrackers handy to welcome the new year with a bang.
"We've been asked to bring a dish or native delicacies to a friend's house," he said. "For entertainment, my musician friends and I will be singing live with our electric guitars, drums and keyboard."
* additional reporting by Ola Salem, Nadeem Hanif and Ramona Ruiz
The InterContinental Hotel’s Fishmarket has a special dinner, with prices ranging from Dh350 to Dh550. The Yacht Club is featuring a set menu for Dh795, or canapes and drinks for Dh495. DJ Rabin and DH Michael Canitrot play along with singer Lee Fields. Entrance fee Dh150. For reservations, call toll-free: 800 423463.
Cube Lounge bar at OnetoOne hotel will have a special DJ performance. Dh200. For reservations, call: 02 4952000.
The Hilton on the Corniche will host a five-course set menu at the jazz bar with entertainment from the South African band, Worx. Dh495. 8pm onwards. For reservations, call 02 681 1900.
India Social Club and Cultural Centre’s New Year’s party. 9.30pm onwards. Dinner, music and dancing, including DJs Vishal, Pal and Eapen. Members Dh60; non-members Dh100; Children below the age of six, free; six to 16 Dh30. For more information, call: 02 6730066.
The Burj Khalifa will offer a fireworks show, along with laser displays and a fountain that sways to the music with flames and water jets. Free entry for the public at Burj Park, with a view of the Burj Khalifa.
Burj Al Arab’s gala dinner at the restaurant of your choice within the Burj, and a view of the fireworks. Dh7,450 (gala dinner and after party), Dh2,500 (children aged four to 11). 6.30pm onwards. For reservations, call: 04 301 7600.
India Club’s New Year’s party. 9pm onwards. Dinner, music and dancing, including DJ Sandy. Members Dh100; non-members Dh150. Shuttle bus service between the Emirates Trading Establishment and the club, every 15 minutes from 8.30pm to 2.30am. Table reservations, call: 04 337 1112.
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa, Dubai Marina offers a five-course set menu by Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia, followed by dancing at Buddha Bar at the Grosvenor House. Dh1,350. For more information, call: 04 316 5550.
Rocky’s Cafe Regent Palace Hotel Two live Filipino bands and DJ till 3am on New Year’s eve. For Dh2,011, eight to 10 people can share a two-course menu and drinks. Call 04 396 3888.
Golf Restaurant at the Palm Sports Resort in Al Ain will have a live band and belly-dancers from 9pm until 2am with an open buffet, all for Dh400 per person and Dh200 for anyone younger than five. For reservations, call: 03 7026425.