In the frame for Art Dubai, with recovery among the exhibits

Dubai's social diary hots up. This week it is the opening of Art Dubai, in my view the best single event in the glitz-laden calendar. Next up, the World Cup horse race, the international film festival, and the Gitex technology show.

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The Dubai social diary is getting hectic. This week it's the opening of Art Dubai, in my view the best single event the emirate stages in its glitz-laden calendar.

For the sporty types, it's the World Cup horse race at the end of the month; for the movie fans, it's the Dubai International Film Festival later in the year; for the computer nerds, it's the Gitex technology show in October.

But for the emirate's culture vultures, Art Dubai is the "must attend" event. There's something about the cocktail of fine art and, let's face it, lashings of liquid cash that makes it unmissable.

It's the seventh year for the event, which has experienced both good times and bad times. When I first came to Dubai in the heady days of 2006, Art Dubai was a mind-boggling experience. You could virtually hear the dollars and euros just crying out to be spent on virtually any piece.

Then, for a couple of years, it was a bit more restrained as the financial crisis hit the pockets of even the most enthusiastic collector.

The organisers say the total spent has increased each year, even at the height of the crisis, but the atmosphere then was more muted. Perhaps the arty investment bankers who make up a sizeable proportion of the buyers had one eye on the crisis, but they were still buying.

So this year, with all the economic indicators pointing to a real recovery in Dubai's fortunes, Art Dubai could be a real litmus test.

There is some US$40 million (Dh146.9m) worth of art on show from 75 galleries. Let's see just how much of that is snapped up by the aficianados.


The other great social event of the calendar in March is the annual Saint Patrick's day party thrown by the Irish embassy in Abu Dhabi.

If, as with Art Dubai, these events can in any way be used as a barometer of economic well-being, the signs from the Radisson Blu hotel on Yas Island the other night were encouraging.

It hasn't been that way for the past few years, as the Irish economy has struggled with the global and eurozone crises. There was a distinctly low-key approach to the "wearing of the green" for a while.

I noticed a distinct change of tone this year. The official guest of the event, the Irish education minister Ruairi Quinn, gave a speech that focused on the positive steps the Irish government had taken towards dealing with its financial problems.

There was even an exhibition of traditional Irish dancing led by the wife to the ambassador, the charming Lana Madden. My Irish dancing days are over, so I segued discreetly over to the bar, where traditional Irish beverages were available.

The ambassador, Ciarán Madden, was in his usual tip-top form, but he had some sad news to convey: after a four year tour of duty in the UAE, he would be returning to Ireland this summer.

That's a loss, although partly compensated by the arrival of another Irishman to the UAE. I was pleased to meet James O'Brien, who took up the job of head of regulatory development at the UAE Central Bank a couple of months ago. Now that's what you might call a "challenge".