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Published: December 29th 2014
When we discussed our upcoming trip, a common response from concerned friends and family was often "Oh, you will miss Christmas?" We were in a position where we did not have much choice if we were going to attend the camel festival. We thought about it, but knew the festival was important. We assumed we would head out on our travels and kind of forget that it was even the holiday season since whenever we travel it seems we are in an information vacuum of sorts, not knowing what day it is or what is happening at home.
Forgetting it was Christmas time was not an option. From the moment we arrived in the UAE, there was no doubt it was the Christmas season. We rationalized that it made sense to spread holiday spirit in Dubai and Abu Dhabi since those places are loaded with ex pats and are the modern, liberal parts of the country.
But then we traveled to the other coast and was greeted by Christmas music, tree lighting ceremonies, wrapped presents under trees and even Santa Clauses. Ok, we told ourselves it must be the resorts catering to the Christian tourists (many of them Russians).
After all, it makes good business sense.
Then we traveled to Oman. Same story, different country.
Now we are in the Empty Quarter of the UAE, a remote desert community lacking in foreign Christian guests, celebrating Christmas with as many or more good tidings than you can find at home! Our hotel is an oasis in a sea of sand where most of the staff and guests are practicing Muslims, but everyone in the hotel and surrounding community went all out to celebrate Christmas together.
The staff members wore Santa hats, the entire hotel was flooded with Christmas carols--even live caroling, a special Christmas dinner was served and everyone said Merry Christmas at every encounter. It was interesting that the celebrations were not just about Santa or snowmen, the spiritual side of the holiday was recognized too. There was a boisterous party for the staff members and guests that seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.
I guess we have learned our lesson about assuming who will and will not openly embrace the Christmas spirit. The open and accepting attitude was quite refreshing.
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