Kids visiting Ski Dubai's Christmas grotto - complete with Santa himself - have been won over by his gifts and words of advice.
Santa promises youngsters in Dubai his sleigh will make a soft landing in the desert
DUBAI // Children need not worry – the shifting sands of the desert will not cause Santa Claus’s sleigh to skid on Christmas Eve.
Father Christmas, who is visiting the UAE to hear children’s gift wishes, vouches for his versatile sledge, saying it delivers a soft landing on snow or sand.
“My sleigh and reindeers are very flexible, they can land whether on snow, ice or land,” said Santa, who is at Ski Dubai’s grotto in the Mall of the Emirates.
Children crowded around him on Friday for red goodie bags stuffed with sweets, with more due to visit him in the coming days.
Santa says his trusty reindeer will be guided to homes by the UAE’s famous landmarks on Christmas Eve – although he admits the new address system will come in handy.
“With the street name and number in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, of course it will help,” he said. “For other emirates, landmarks will also do.”
And the absence of chimneys will not pose a problem to the North Pole resident, who has been posing for pictures with parents and children and even dropping in on birthday parties.
“I can squeeze into the windows easily,” he said with a shrug, despite most children at the grotto listing his girth – and kindness – as their favourite things about Santa.
Santa also said his reindeer have become acclimatised to the UAE’s weather.
“They are used to dashing through snow,” he said. “But my reindeer absolutely love the sand and the sunny weather here.”
Snacks left for Santa by families here tend to be healthier than his usual cookies, with dates a common midnight treat.
“They are so kind and thoughtful with their hospitality, leaving dates and milk for me and my reindeer,” he said.
As for gifts, toy building bricks, cars, dolls and clothes are topping the lists he has received this year from children in the UAE.
Some children have made him laugh, he said, by trying to negotiate deals for the coming year instead of ensuring they are always obedient so he could reward their good conduct and behaviour.
In one letter, a boy “promises to be good in school if I give him the present that he wished for – ho ho ho”, Santa said.
Being kind to one another was the only gift the man himself asked for.
“My dear children, spreading love is the best way to enjoy the season. Be good, obey your parents and love one another,” Santa said.
Children from across the world visiting the UAE for Christmas pointed out what they loved most about Santa.
“I like him because he is fat, because his beard is funny and also because he is very nice and kind,” said Dalal Dahrab, 9, visiting from Kuwait with her six-year-old brother, Meshal, and her family.
While Dalal asked for a doll, Meshal was specific that he wanted “a big, big, police dog”.
“I want this from Santa because he gives whatever you ask for,” he said.
Benedetta Ciani, 7, said she needed a tablet this Christmas, and asked for it in a letter she had dropped off at a large box in the town centre of her home city, Varese, in northern Italy, before heading to Dubai with her family.
“I like everything about him, but mainly because he is kind and good and like a grandfather,” she said.
Maha, 5, and her brother Abdul Rahman, 3, from Qatar, were among the children who squealed with joy when they were handed red gift bags from Santa.
“I really like his hat and I like this present,” said Maha.
“We didn’t ask him for any presents because we’re Muslim but I met him, and I like him.”
Some children made requests for their older siblings.
“I want a doll house and I would like a PlayStation 4 for him,” said South African Talia Naidoo, 5, pointing towards her 15-year-old brother.
“All the time he has been asking for a PS4, so I asked for him.”