The 14 UAE events not to miss this season

The first four months of 2014 are packed with things to do. Here are 14 in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai - from concerts to food festivals to book fairs - so you can get planning.

Middle East Film and Comic Con. Sarah Dea / The National
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Tracy Morgan

• du Forum, Yas Island

• February 6 and 7, 8pm

• Tickets from Dh295,

Tuck the kids up in bed because this is one for the adults. Flash Entertainment is warning “adult language” will be used throughout the Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star’s debut UAE show and we wouldn’t expect anything less. Morgan, who got his start on the hit 1990s TV show Martin, is best known for his time on late-night television as well as his role as Tracy Jordan alongside Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey in 30 Rock.

Abu Dhabi Festival

• Emirates Palace

• January 27-April 7; various timings

• Tickets free to Dh350,

Gustavo Dudamel & the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela open this 10-week festival of arts and music. They’re heralded a sensation wherever they play, as the superstar conductor Dudamel is enough reason to watch.

Also featured are the American composer and artist Bill Fontana, Herbie Hancock, Renée Fleming, the Dresden Philharmonic and Milos, one of the hottest names in classical music.

Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation’s partnership with New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall enters its fourth year during the festival and the Ashtar Theatre, a non-profit arts organisation established in Ramallah in 1991, presents its Arabic production of 1001 Nights in a series of public performances across the Emirates.

Sarah Brightman

• Dubai World Trade Centre

• February 6 and 7, 9pm

• Tickets Dh350 to Dh1,390,

Whoever said classical music is boring hasn’t heard that Brightman is set to make history in 2015 as the first professional musician to record a song in space. Having begun her rise to fame in musicals in London’s West End, she’s gone on to sell in excess of 30 million records and two million DVDs worldwide, establishing herself as the world’s best-selling soprano of all time. Her shows at Dubai Classics, a new three-day music festival, mark her first appearance in the UAE and an international date on her Dreamchaser World Tour. We’ll all be waiting to hear her sing Time to Say Goodbye.

Qasr Al Hosn Festival

• February 20 to March 1

It was lucky news for the capital when, after a revealing first year, it was announced that this would become an annual event. Last year attendees were introduced to the fort’s grounds and its history in the dramatic show Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation. This year part of the fort itself will be open for the first time to festival goers – giving them a dramatic look into the nation’s history. The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cultural Authority has announced that Cavalia at Qasr Al Hosn, a grand-scale production combining horses and actors and created by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, will be the festival’s feature show.

The Rolling Stones

• du Arena, Yas Island

• February 21, 9pm

• Tickets Dh495 to Dh3,995,

“Can’t wait to be back on stage especially in Abu Dhabi,” said Mick Jagger. A total of 326,998 fans attended the Stones’ 23 sell-out shows during 2013 and although controversy over ticket prices plagued them, fans who forked out up to £375 (Dh2,256) for the privilege of seeing them live weren’t disappointed. It may not come as the greatest surprise that Jagger and the guys had the highest-grossing British tour of 2013, raking in a massive £77.5 million, according to Billboard magazine.

Gourmet Abu Dhabi

• February 4-19; various timings

• Reservations for events opens this month

Taste of Dubai

• Dubai Media City

• March 13-15; noon-11pm

• Tickets go on sale on January 23,

Put simply, both events are as much food, drink and music as you can stomach. Throw in a bunch of celebrity chefs and a pinch of al fresco-style dining and your recipe is complete. Foodies and those who just love a good nosh can enjoy signature dishes freshly prepared by highly acclaimed chefs at the seventh annual event in Dubai.

In the capital, it’s the chance to witness culinary demonstrations and themed dinners across the city. With food such a large part of everyday UAE life, Taste of Dubai and Gourmet Abu Dhabi are two events firmly cemented on the social calendars of all food and drink aficionados.

RedFest DXB

• Dubai Media City

• February 13 and 14, 2pm daily

• Two-day passes from Dh449,

Ke$ha, Tinie Tempah, Conor Maynard and DJ Marvin Humes kick things off on day one of this two-day music festival. The next day sees The Lumineers, followed by John Newman, the Hotel Cabana singer Naughty Boy and DJs Mark Ronson and Zane Lowe. RedFest DXB is all about the music, with two stages and more than 20 artists performing. Other artists are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival

• Festival Park, Dubai Festival City

• February 13-20; from 6pm daily

• Tickets Dh350 to Dh995,

Two massive weekends of jazz-tinged pop happily sandwich a week of contemporary and old-school jazz artists from all over the world. The Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington open on February 13, followed by a Valentine’s double-bill of Olly Murs and The Wanted on February 14. The following weekend welcomes the modern-day jazz prince Jamie Cullum as well as Colbie Caillat on February 19, all topped off with the Spanish-laced sounds of Santana on February 20. Enjoy smooth jazz and views of the Burj Khalifa on the horizon. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Book fairs

• Emirates Airline Festival of Literature,

• Abu Dhabi International Book Fair,

Don’t miss the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, from March 4 to 8, at the InterContinental Hotel in Dubai Festival City. And the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, to be held at the Abu Dhabi International Exhibition Centre from April 30 to May 5. Workshops, presentations, authors talks and books will abound for this capital mainstay, heading into its 24th year.

Eric Clapton

• Dubai Media City

• March 6, 9pm

• Tickets Dh395,

Clapton fanatics or Vauxhall-advert lovers both appreciate the musical importance of Layla. The car company used the unmistakable guitar riff in its advertising campaigns from 1987 to 1995. For genuine Clapton fans it’s the song a concert just wouldn’t be the same without. Clapton is a legend who shouldn’t be missed: the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winner of 17 Grammys, he is one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time.

Art Dubai

• Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

• March 19-22

• Tickets Dh50,

An international fair with roots firmly planted in the Middle East and South Asia. The eighth edition features commissioned projects and performances, artists’ and curators’ residencies, radio and film workshops, as well as an exhibition of new works by winners of the annual Abraaj Group Art Prize.

Other art events not to miss in 2014: Design Days Dubai, the only fair in Asia dedicated to product and furniture design; Sikka, a fair dedicated to new work by UAE-based artists; and Galleries Nights, featuring 40 new exhibitions across Al Quoz and the Dubai International Financial Centre.

Middle East Film & Comic Con

• Dubai World Trade Centre

• April 3-5

You don’t even have to like comic books to have fun at this three-day event – it’s enough that everyone else who goes does so much. The passion for the characters, the meticulously thought-out costumes and the big names make for an entirely fun day out for the family.

Gulf Film Festival

• Dubai Festival City

• April 9-15

A regional film festival seen as the “feeder” for the Dubai International Film Festival, GFF sees filmmakers from the region with works of fiction and non-fiction compete for top honours in the feature and shorts categories. UAE offerings this year include Baghdad Messi directed by Sahim Omar Kalifa; Khalid Ali’s Where We Are, the uncomfortable story of a girl who is raped but nobody comes to help; and Aisha Abdullah’s 69, a work which voices the concerns of the young generation seeking to achieve their desires.

The Gulf Film Market runs simultaneously, an industry initiative aimed at developing the local and regional film culture and creating more opportunities for local filmmakers in training, development, production and ­distribution.