Check out following list of all regular events that appear on the Dubai social calendar, listed month by month. You’ll notice a concentration during the winter months (October–April), as many of these events take place outside. For one-off events – concerts, sporting matches and exhibitions – do check their web sites before your visit, as these are many, and they tend to be announced quite close to the actual date. In terms of ticketing, things rarely sell out here, but to get the best prices and decent seats, it’s worth booking in advance.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL RACING CARNIVAL Racing events are held every Thursday and Friday until the beginning of March at the state-of-the-art Meydan Racecourse. Admission is free, but unless you want to be in the bear pit or hungry all night, we’d suggest spending the AED 50 on a seat or making an evening of it and dining in one of the hotel’s buffet restaurants, from AED 600 per head.
DUBAI MARATHON You might not make it round the track faster than three-time winner Haile Gebrselassie, but the course, which takes you around Beach Road and Media City, is a great one, for runners and spectators. There is also a 10-kilometre run and 3-kilometre fun run.
DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL Otherwise known as the January sales, the DSF is homage to all things capitalist in a city that was born to shop. It runs from around the middle of January for six weeks, and most malls host special events, grand raffles, concerts by international stars, funfairs and even outdoor desert camps for families.
THE DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC Some of the world’s top golfers slog it out on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club in this European PGA Tour golf tournament.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL Held in Dubai Media City, this jazz fest usually manages to punch way above its weight in terms of the talent it attracts, with major international names performing in the open air over seven days. There is also a free programme of concerts from up-and-coming stars.
DUBAI PET SHOW Despite – or perhaps because of – being a distinctly pet-unfriendly city, Dubai hosts an annual Dubai Pet Show at Festival City, which is a big draw for families. OK, it’s not exactly Crufts, but who can resist a dog in clothes? Not us.
DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS Tucked behind Dubai’s largest theme pub – the Irish Village – the Dubai Tennis Stadium hosts two weeks of world-class tennis every year in February. This is one event that does sell out, so book your tickets in advance.
ART DUBAI One of the biggest international art fairs in the Middle East brings together art from all over the world for a week-long programme of talks, exhibitions and events. Collectors, artists and the general public converge at the Madinat Jumeirah, where more than 70 galleries show work, but viewings and exhibitions are all over the city.
BASTAKIYA ART FAIR Held alongside Art Dubai, Bastakiya Art Fair features works from up-and-coming local artists, exhibited in the historic Bastakiya district. The doors of all the houses are thrown open, and every spare space is filled with the art of the Arab world.
CARTIER POLO VIP tickets for this gorgeous event at the Dubai Desert Palm hotel are like gold dust, so all but the most determined are likely to go without. However, for the past few years, the hotel has run a parallel event on the other side of the pitch – it’s not quite Cartier jewels and A-listers, but for a fixed price you get to watch the matches, chow down on a barbecue and prop up the bar in the sunshine all day.
DUBAI FOOTBALL SEVENS International teams compete at this three-day event, a relative newcomer with a carnival atmosphere.
DUBAI WORLD CUP The world’s richest horse race is the king of spectacles in a city that is not short of such things. People fly from all over the world to sit trackside at the Meydan Racecourse in their finery (do not even consider dressing down), sip Champagne in the Bubble Lounge and – if we’re honest – all but ignore the horses. This giant trackside party is topped off with a concert from a big-name star.
EMIRATES LITERARY FESTIVAL A stellar line-up of more than 80 authors is always at this world-class literary event. The packed fourday programme includes panel discussions, readings, workshops, children’s events and storytelling workshops. There is also a Fringe Festival with a programme of free events.
PERRIER CHILL OUT FESTIVAL This annual event is prone to changing venue but attracts great international bands and DJs with a chilled-out vibe over a weekend.
TASTE OF DUBAI The Media City amphitheatre hosts this foodie event, which runs over four days. Dubai’s best restaurants and bars set up stalls around relaxed outdoor seating and cook samplers of their signature dishes for a knock-down price.
GULF FILM FESTIVAL This festival celebrates Arabic and international films – even better, the programme of screenings and events is open to the public. It’s especially interesting if you’re keen to see Emirati made films.
DHOW RACING The Dubai International Marine Club hosts a series of traditional dhow boat races just off the coast.
DUBAI SUMMER SURPRISES Otherwise known as the summer sales, it usually starts around the first week of June and ends mid-August. All of the malls put on a special programme of events and giveaways, and Modesh – the very odd, yellow, springlike cartoon character that is the event’s official mascot – pops up around the city. The last week or so of the sale, prices are usually slashed, sometimes dropping to 20% of the original ticket price.
HOPFEST The Irish Village pub hosts an annual beer festival for three days in August in a large, air-conditioned marquee on the lawn, with cask ales, live music and food every night.
GITEX The Middle East’s premier technology show takes over the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
DUBAI RUGBY SEVENS It feels as if the whole city descends on this stadium for three days to cheer on the country’s team – festivities go on well past the end of play, with bands, beer tents and dancing.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Such is the growing reputation of this festival that it has attracted A-listers such as Christina Ricci and Gerard Butler. The general public is able to buy tickets for many of the screenings.
U.A.E. NATIONAL DAY Take a seat at any cafe on Jumeirah Beach Road on 2 December and watch the procession of proud Emiratis with pimped-up cars fly the flag – one giant Hummer makes an appearance every year, entirely covered in Swarovski crystals in the U.A.E. colours.