Things to do in the UAE this week, from Hayao Miyazaki's swansong to murder mystery dinner

Japanese animator bows out with The Boy and the Heron, W Abu Dhabi hosts a pet adoption day and Christmas spirit reaches its peak

A traditional Iranian dinner will be hosted at Palazzo Versace Dubai, on Thursday. Photo: Enigma
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It's the last week before Christmas and it's the most wonderful time of the year on the UAE's events calendar.

While there are plenty of festive-themed activities, there are also film screenings, cultural performances and a pet adoption day.

Here, The National rounds up seven things to do around the Emirates, from December 18 to 24.


Start the week with a murder mystery and dinner at Belcanto, the restaurant at Dubai Opera. The immersive evening uses each dish as part of a thrilling detective story. It's accompanied by live performances to elevate the experience.

Starters include seabass tartare with yuzu kohso, avocado and mango; foie gras topped with morello cherries; and octopus with artichokes and potato foam. The main course is slow-cooked veal cheek with topinambur cream and chanterelle mushrooms.

Monday, 7pm-9pm; from Dh1,299 per person; Belcanto, Downtown Dubai;


The landmark Cop28 is now finished, but sustainability is still a hot topic in the UAE. The Winter City at Expo City Dubai, where the summit was held, remains open until January 7.

There, Santa's house shows how Father Christmas reuses, reduces and recycles to help save the melting North Pole. It features repurposed decorations and energy-efficient lighting. Meanwhile, at Frosty's Farmhouse, there are workshops and other child-friendly exercises that highlight farm-to-table concepts and cultivating a green thumb. Other attractions include Mrs Claus's Bakery, Santa's Toy Factory and Letters to Santa.

Until January 7; 3pm-11pm; Dh20 per person; Expo City Dubai;


Fans of popular Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki can head to Cinema Akil on Wednesday to catch a screening of his latest – and last – film The Boy and the Heron.

Produced by Studio Ghibli, it follows a boy named Mahito Maki during the Second World War as he discovers an abandoned tower and enters a mythical world with a talking grey heron.

Until December 28; screening times vary; Dh56.50 per person; Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai;


Enigma restaurant at Palazzo Versace Dubai is taking diners on a culinary journey inspired by Shab-e-Yalda, also known as Yalda Night, which celebrates the winter solstice.

The sharing-style menu features authentic Iranian dishes such as zeytoon parwadeh, or marinated green olives with walnuts and pomegranate; and ghormeh sabzi, a herb stew often regarded as the country's national dish. There's also a selection of kebabs, as well as a seabass option, and diners can end the meal with faludeh, pomegranate yoghurt parfait and pomegranate cookies.

The restaurant will be decorated accordingly, including a collection of works by revered Iranian poet Hafez. Live musicians will set the mood.

Thursday, 7pm-11pm; Dh450 per person; Palazzo Versace Dubai, Jaddaf Waterfront; 04 556 8830


Visit Hatta Wadi Hub or Leem Lake on Friday for a taste of Hatta Festival, which takes place in picturesque surroundings with an array of family-friendly activities and cultural performances.

Catch the light shows at both destinations or Shining Peaks of Hatta, a projection mapping show on the mountains. Visitors can also sample dishes at one of the many food trucks and pop-up kiosks. Light shows and dining aside, festivalgoers can enjoy Hatta's wide-ranging outdoor activities, from mountain biking to zip-lining.

Until December 31; Monday to Friday, 3pm-9pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am-10pm; free entry; Hatta Wadi Hub and Leem Lake;


W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island is collaborating with dog and cat shelters for an adoption day on Saturday.

Individuals and families who are looking to add a furry member to their households can meet and mingle with the animals on site. It's not mandatory to go home with a pet, so guests are also allowed to pass by for a weekend endorphin boost.

Saturday, 5pm-7pm; free; W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island; 02 656 0000


Celebrate Christmas Eve a little bit differently on Sunday with an escape room experience at Prison Island Abu Dhabi.

The popular destination is offering a 50 per cent discount on its heart-pounding immersive games, which is ideal for groups of friends or families. A minimum three-hour booking is required, with a maximum of 10 people per slot.

Sunday and Monday, 10am-10pm; from Dh129 per person; Abu Dhabi Mall;

Updated: December 18, 2023, 3:38 AM