Monday, December 23, 2013

DAY FIFTY FIVE - Christmas Eve in Abu Dhabi

I honestly didn't know what to expect when it came to Christmas. This is a Muslim country, after all. On the other hand, 80% of the population comes from other countries, some of which are Muslim too, but many are not. So would I "see" Christmas? Would I "hear" it? Would I even know it was "The Season"?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

I find a good way to get the pulse of a city is by checking out their Timeout magazine. There were two Christmas issues in a row plus several inserts. All the resorts, hotels and large restaurants have been advertising their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. 

This fabulous tree is in the lobby of the Beach Rotana Hotel. Doug was insistent that I pose in front of it (he dearly loves his "posed shots"), and I acquiesced since I figured I provided scale for this tree

As I strolled the malls most store windows had some kind of Christmas display, and yes, there were Christmas carols playing over the speakers

Marks and Spencer, a British department store, had a very lovely display in their window. Inside I found a Christmas section where I purchased some Christmas decorations. I loved seeing all the British holiday goodies such as mincemeat pies, crackers (the kind you pull apart with a "pop", not the kind you eat), and plum puddings. 

This mall is nearby and is pretty small. Still, they had a lovely and tasteful Christmas display in the center, complete with trees, reindeer and....

Santa!  I did not, however, see any elves

The Abu Dhabi World Trade Center opened up recently, complete with two towers and a huge mall, and since it is only two blocks away Doug and I checked it out. We were amused to see this Winter Wonderland play area for little kids with fake snow, a snowman, igloo and fir trees.

And in spite of this admonition, I saw quite a few older kids and parents in the "snow" too. They were trying to fashion snow balls out of the "snow" which did not work at all!

The malls and hotels had tasteful decorations, but there were plenty of tacky decorations and displays to be found, much like at home in the States. Can you spot Doug in the window taking this photo?

This was my favorite of the tacky displays. For a mere AED1,099 ($300) you too could have this cardboard fireplace with a "tv" fire popping and crackling away. I spotted this at Carrafour, a Costco-like store. Lots of little and not-so-little kids walked up to it and touched the screen to see if it was real.

To be crass, Christmas sells, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the malls and stores and restaurants would take advantage of that. But that is no different from back home, is it? And don't we all love to walk through our town or city and take in all the decorations and lights and enjoy the special food of the Season? 

I for one was delighted that I could find decorations for the apartment. At home in Hoboken I have several boxes of ornaments and decorations, and I love (LOVE!) decorating my home. Since we'll be here for one Christmas only, I didn't want to spend money on things I would not use again. Still, I had to buy something! 

I passed on the plum pudding and mincemeat pies at Marks and Spencer, but I did get this tiny "Charlie Brown" tree. I like it juxtaposed with my traditional Arab coffee pot.

Behold my Christmas philodendron! I mean I had to have lights. I found a small string at Lulu's, but when I brought it home and plugged it in there was a huge PHZZZZTTTTT!!!! and smoke and the acrid smell of fried wiring. Yikes! So I went back to Marks and Spencer and found a set that looked a little more trustworthy

I have a large bookshelf in the apartment but very few books (thus far), so I put out some Christmas presents, a trio of Godiva reindeer (one each for me, Doug and Jeff), and Christmas cards. The shelves will look bare again when I take them away

I have red holiday votives on the coffee table, and I'll have them lit when Jeff walks in the door this evening. And of course the Christmas philodendron will be lit - I can just see him grin and roll his eyes  when he sees it with that "Oh Mom!" look (heh heh). 

One thing I will miss is a Christmas Eve service. I did some Googling a few weeks back, and yes there are some churches in town, but since Jeff is arriving Christmas Eve we really couldn't attend anyway. 

So yes.... I am mostly ready for Christmas. I used my funny little apartment oven for the first time this morning and baked Doug's pumpkin pie. It looks absolutely perfect, I am happy to report. I had to go online to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius so I could set the oven temperature properly. Jeff's brownies are also baked - he's not a pie guy, so I make him a big brownie sundae with ice cream, fudge sauce and whipped cream. Later this afternoon I'll assemble a French Toast Breakfast Casserole which I'll bake Christmas morning when Jeff wakes up (and after all his traveling, who knows when that will be!).

The afternoon Call to Prayer is happening...... so I will take this moment to send a prayer to all of you: Peace and Joy this year, my friends. And much love. Always! 



  1. You are making a beautiful Christmas for your family--that's what counts! I know you're learning and loving what you're finding out. Best wishes for the new year in a new country!

    1. Thanks, Mary Lois! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here, and I have no doubt it will be a very interesting year ahead!