The Emirates Palace's Santa Claus takes a moment out of his busy schedule to talk about Christmas in Abu Dhabi and why he favours camels over reindeers in the Middle East.
I know this is a really busy time of year for you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to The National.
No problem at all.
Formalities first. Do you prefer Father Christmas or Santa Claus?
Just call me Santa.
OK, Santa. I hear you arrived in Abu Dhabi in a somewhat unconventional manner.
Ho, ho, ho. Yes. I came by speedboat. And then I rode a camel from the beach up to the palace.
Really, Santa. How could you ditch Rudolph?
I wanted to do something special, something different. I feel you really have to adapt to the culture. Abu Dhabi is by the sea so it makes sense to come by speedboat. And of course in Europe it makes sense to use reindeers to guide my sleigh but in the Middle East, camels are the obvious choice.
So when did you arrive at the Emirates Palace?
Two weeks ago. It’s a huge palace and we want to satisfy all the children. We are totally booked up over Christmas so we want to keep surprising all the new children who are our guests. It’s a very lovely setting. I am set up under the tree in the central dome – it’s quite a massive tree: 42 feet by 24ft. There are people here from all over the world, of all different nationalities, and it’s very nice to see everyone enjoying the festivities together.
Are the children well behaved?
They’ve all been very well behaved. The wait to see me has been as long as an hour sometimes and even the littlest kids as young as three and four have stood in line patiently.
In my day, after we whispered our Christmas wishes to Santa, we got to pick a present out his sack. Is that still the case?
Well, again, we are doing it slightly different here – with a bit of a Middle Eastern twist. All the children get some sweets but we make some of their dreams come true by taking them down to the beach for camel rides.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Well the best thing is really listening to the kids. I think they really appreciate that someone is taking their requests very seriously and paying attention to them.
So, um, Santa. What do you do for the rest of the year?
Don’t tell the children but I work as a concierge at the hotel.
Anything else you want to say?
I want to say to the young ones, be good, study hard, and listen to your parents. Try to be a good son or daughter. And finally, I want to say Merry Christmas and of course a Happy New Year.