UAE residents plan for low-key New Year's Eve celebrations

Social distancing and safety are priorities for revellers this year

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Faisal Al Hilwani discusses his plans for New Years Eve celebrations. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

New Year's Eve parties are out and low-key gatherings and camping trips are in as the UAE says farewell to 2020.

While revellers in the Emirates typically mark the end of a year and the start of a new one with lavish parties, tonight will be a quiet night for most.

Karen Lobo, 23, said she and her family chose a more muted celebration to ensure they would be safe amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am going to spend it camping in the desert with my family. Usually I would spend it partying with friends but not this year,” said Ms Lobo, a PR executive from India.

"We don't want to be in a crowded area with lots of people. My friends are all doing the same. Instead of going to busy restaurants and bars, they are camping out in the desert."

<span>Every year we celebrate but this year will be smaller as we need to abide by the social distancing rules</span>

Dubai has permitted social and private family gatherings of up to 30 people this evening. However, anyone caught flouting the rules faces a fine of Dh50,000 for hosting and Dh15,000 for attending.

Ms Lobo said that a rare upside of the pandemic was that she had spent more time with family.

“I spent much longer with them than would have been possible otherwise,” she said.

“With that in mind, it’s only fitting we get to have a quiet New Year’s Eve together under the stars in the desert.”

Also planning to spend the night camping was Englishman Stef Economides, 58.

"It has been a strange year, to say the least, but I am looking forward to celebrate seeing the back of it with my wife Sarah and a few friends," he said.

“We are going out to a remote part of the desert where we will not have to worry about social distancing ourselves from big crowds.”

Muath Othman, 33, an engineer from Jordan, said he would be camping with friends from his salsa classes.

"I am not in the mood to do anything loud and extravagant," said Mr Othman, who lives in Abu Dhabi.

"The ultimate lesson I learnt in 2020 was that a paradise without people is not worth stepping into.

“While staying at home alone during quarantine I discovered that I enjoy spending time with my friends more than anything.”

Faisal Al Hilwani, 31, an architect from Syria who lives in Abu Dhabi, said he and a friend would be camping in Dubai.

"I don't want to think about the past year, I want next year to be totally different," he said.

His goals for the coming year include maintaining a healthy lifestyle and find a way to help others.

“I train almost every day with a very active boot camp group and sometimes on my own. I join various races and marathons so I want to keep doing that and more,” he said.

Dubai resident Ross Ashcroft, 38, will be working on New Year's Eve but after months of no work, he is not complaining.
"I am very excited and happy to say I will be DJing at Bidi Bondi on The Palm in Dubai. It is my first real gig since March," said Mr Ashcroft, from England.
He admitted it would be a New Year's Eve unlike any other he had known.

"Everyone will be socially distanced as well as the other restrictions in place, but I feel that this New Year's Eve will mean all the more to people, as they have had such a testing year," he said.

"It will give us temporary relief from the situation we are currently all facing."

Another Dubai resident said he would be celebrating at home with a small group of family and friends.

“Every year we celebrate but this year will be smaller as we need to abide by the social distancing rules,” said engineer Suresh Amara, 39, from India.

“As for my wish for 2021 – like everyone I would like to see the end of Covid-19 so we can get our lives back to normal and travel to see family and friends back home again.”