ABU DHABI // New Year's Eve revellers celebrated in their own ways and in their own time last night, with some partying, some camping and some praying. In the capital Ross Blaikie, 32, an Australian department manager at Aecon, and his wife, Alison, 29, were celebrating the New Year away from home for the first time. With 15 friends from different parts of the world, the couple camped at the desert from yesterday afternoon until this morning.
"Everything was a first time for us in 2009," Mrs Blaikie said. "We left Sydney for the first time, we got engaged in the beginning of 2009, we got married two months later, we got pregnant, and now we are dune-bashing for the first time." Intercontinental Abu Dhabi was one of the many hotels in the capital hosting a party, offering its guests a chance to move between restaurants. A Brazilian samba parade started off the celebrations at Chamas restaurant, followed by DJ Steve from Buddha Bar Paris. Over at the Yacht Club revellers danced to the music of DJ Ravin. A buffet with lobster and salmon was served in Selections, and other special treats were offered at the Fish Market, the Belgian Beer Cafe and Piano Lounge.
At the beach in Mangrove Village, nine Emirati women gathered for an evening picnic. As she spread out a tablecloth, Hyam al Meraikhi, 24, a graphic designer, said: "It is not part of our culture to celebrate New Year's, but this time we saw it as a good chance for all of us to gather and enjoy the weather, and see how other people are celebrating, especially since this compound is full of expats. I want to have a connection with Allah during the first minutes of 2010, so we all agreed to pray two ruka'as qiyaam al layl [midnight prayers] when it hits 12am."
Parties were also going strong in Dubai. Last year, the city was in a sombre mood after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Ruler, called off public celebrations as a sign of respect for those suffering in the Gaza conflict. In contrast, revellers where in high spirits yesterday, with an inevitable increase in traffic as the evening progressed. With temperatures at a cool 20°C and skies cloudless, many took the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor celebrations, and there were several fireworks displays.
Many chose outlets such as 360 at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Barasti at Mina Siyahi and The Irish Village over more extravagant, and more expensive, bars and restaurants. The laid-back setting of the The Irish Village in Garhoud saw people trickling in by 7.30pm to beat the expected post-dinner rush from surrounding restaurants. "The weather's great so you might as well start early," Steve Gallagher, 32, an Australian, said.
At the Palm Jumeirah many residents took advantage of their plush villas at the Fronds to hold house parties, while just a little further down the road, Nassimi Beach at the Atlantis hotel was holding yet another outdoor party. The entry fee of Dh700 (US$190) per person was clearly not an obstacle as hundreds attended the event. The Indian community was also in for a treat with several Bollywood stars performing at a lavish ceremony at the World Trade Centre.
In Ras al Khaimah, while some opted for lavish dinners such as the Dh750 buffet at the Cove Rotana, or belly dancing performances at hotels and golf clubs, many preferred a relaxed evening with family and friends. "It's a little bit quiet this year," said Tony Kannan, the food and beverage manager from Towerlinks Golf Club. email@example.com With additional reporting by Anna Zacharias