Traditional Music and Folk Dances in Dubai

The traditional music and folk dances in Dubai are a reflection of the rich heritage of the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE). The celebration of the various cultural events and festivals in Dubai will not be complete without these traditional music and folk dances.

In Dubai wedding ceremonies, for example, people dance to express their joy for the occasion. In a typical festivity, dancers form in a circle or a line and encourage everyone to join them.

Drums are a common accompaniment, and so are tambourines (called Tiran or Duffuf). Other musical instruments traditionally used are the Nay (a long end-blown flute), the Rababah (a fiddle played with a horsehair bow), and the Tambura (a long-necked plucked lute). Each of these musical instruments is played for one of the different folk dances.

There are at least three folk dances in Dubai: Ayyalah, Liwa, and Haban.

The Ayyalah:

This folk dance, which is popular throughout the UAE, depicts a battle, the overcoming of the enemy, and the celebration of triumph. It is performed with at least 25 men, but may be as many as 200. The men form in two lines and face each other, with arms linked, as if ready to do battle.

Those watching a performance of this folk dance will be fascinated once the men begin to brandish their swords (camel sticks, actually), recite poems (as if challenging the other side), and swing slowly and rhythmically back and forth to the beat of drums. The concerted music is led by a big drum called Al-Ras, which is supported by 3 smaller drums called Takhamir.

The Liwa:

Like the Ayyalah, the theme of this folk dance is war. It traces its origin to East Africa, when traders from that region introduced it to the Middle East. As such, the dance is inspired by the African style of music. Some of the instruments used in its performance are the Mizmar (a pipe flute) and three drums – Jabwah, Shindo, and Jasser.

A typical performance of the Liwa opens with a 6-minute playing of the Mizmar in slow tempo; beats from the three drums immediately follow, and the 10 singers/dancers enter. The pace increases as the performance progresses, until it peaks to a whirling activity. The entire performance takes about twenty minutes.

The Liwa is traditionally performed in special occasions, such as at wedding ceremonies and in the celebration of the successful conclusion of the pearl-diving season.

The Haban:

This is another major folk dance in Dubai. Alternative names to the Haban are Khayali or Khamiri, any of which refers to the instrument that predominates the performance of this dance. The folk dance is especially performed at weddings.

The Haban is performed with 3 groups. The first group is made up of about 8 men, the second group is composed also of about 8 women, and the third group is comprised of about 10 musicians. The player of the Haban (the instrument) is usually the conductor of the ensemble.

Certain rhythm instruments and drums of varied sizes accompany the performance. The two groups of female and male dancers move back and forth on a steady 2-step rhythm as the group of musicians does its number in between the two groups.

Two other less known, but nevertheless equally significant, folk dances in Dubai are the Harbiya and the Mated. The former is very similar to the Ayyalah, which is performed with two rows of men facing each other; the latter is rather different from the other folk dances in Dubai, in that it’s performed for a specific religious occasion – the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.

World’s Largest Aviation Hub in Dubai

DWC Airport Makes Dubai Owner Of World’s Largest Aviation Hub.

The distinction of having the largest commercial aviation hub in the world belongs to Dubai. And the subject of this special honor is the Al Maktoum International Airport, which is known to be about ten times the combined size of the Dubai Cargo Village and the Dubai International Airport (the erstwhile biggest aviation hub in the Middle East). It is located in the port town of Jebel Ali.

The Al Maktoum International Airport is named after Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s former ruler. It stands impressively at the heart of the Dubai World Central; hence, its IATA-assigned code is DWC. In fact, DWC airport is the main feature of that commercial, logistics and residential complex.

Annual cargo and passenger capacities are placed at 12 million tons and over 120 million, respectively. These figures easily dwarf those of the previous “bests” – Memphis International Airport (cargo) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (passenger).

Just how large is DWC airport? To give you an idea, it is designed to allow four aircraft to land simultaneously, round the clock. It has 5 parallel runways, each of which is 4.5 km, or 2.8 mi, in length. The runways are each separated by a distance of 800 m, or 2,600 ft. The first runway to have been completed already cost 1 billion dirham (AED 1bn).

Actually, the original plan was for DWC airport to have six runways, three on one side and the other three on the opposite side. For some reason, that plan was revised.

The DWC airport control tower, which boasts the latest in avionics and navigational technology, is 91 m high, making it the tallest in all of the Middle East. Its cost is AED 143mn. Other available data mention the costs of the fuel farms and the aprons/taxiways at AED 108mn and AED 908mn, respectively.

The 12-million-ton cargo volume mentioned earlier will be handled at the airport’s 16 cargo terminals. The passengers, on the other hand, will be served in its 3 passenger terminals, one of which is dedicated to the Emirates Airline.

Perhaps the best feature of DWC airport is its capability of handling all types of new-generation aircraft, the Airbus A380 Superjumbo included. In fact, it is forecast to be the world’s most Superjumbo-friendly airport because its hard-stand aero bridge gates are specifically designed to accommodate the massive aircraft.

Other features and facilities of DWC airport include Executive and Royal jet centers, multiple concourses, shopping malls, hotels, a trade and exhibition facility, and even a golf course. It has more than 100,000 parking spaces for the convenience of the airport’s own employees, tourists, and the residents of Dubai.

The plan is for DWC airport to be connected to the Dubai International Airport (IATA code DXB) by means of a high-speed express rail system. Once this is completed, it will take much of the load off DXB.

It is estimated that the total cost to complete the entire DWC airport complex will reach 82 billion US dollars (USD 82bn). DWC airport is expected to be fully operational by the year 2017.

History Of Dubai


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a union of seven states, called Emirates. One of these states, and perhaps the most progressive, is Dubai. Some records actually indicate that Dubai has been in existence for about one-and-a-half centuries before the UAE was formed.

There are very few accounts of the culture that prevailed in the southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula prior to the time of Islam. The evidences and accounts gathered so far have sufficed in the meantime to make some headway in tracing back the history of Dubai.

The discovery, for instance, of some material traces of an ancient mangrove swamp (estimated at 70 centuries) during the laying of the sewer lines near the Dubai Internet City on Sheikh Zayed Road led to the conclusion that the area had been blanketed by sand some fifty centuries ago as the coastline receded inland. This has now become a part of Dubai’s present coastline.

Some records indicate that many of the old places in that southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula served as trading centers between the East and the West. Before the time of Islam, the region was dominated by the Azd (a pre-Islamic Arabian tribe). The Azd worshipped Bajar, a minor deity.

During that period, two powers lorded it over the region. These are the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) and the Sassanid (Persian) empires. The latter controlled a big part of the region.

When much of the region was converted to Islam, the Umayyad Caliphate took control of the region from the Sassanids. The Dubai Museum undertook excavations in the region of Jumeirah and discovered a number of material evidences believed to be from the period of the Umayyads.

Here are some of the earliest records that made mention of Dubai:

• The “Book of Geography” by the historian Abu Abdullah Al-Bakri;

• Gaspero Balbi, an Italian explorer in the 16th century, was said to have visited the area in 1580, referring to it as “Dibei,” and cited it for its pearling industry;

• It was only after 1799 when documented records of Dubai came into existence.

Other historical records indicate that Dubai was established by the Al Abu Falasa lineage of Banu Yas clan in the early 19th century. Until 1833, Dubai was a dependent of Abu Dhabi (now one of the 7 states and the capital of UAE). The sheikh of Dubai, along with the other sheikhs of the region, signed the “General Maritime Treaty” with the government of Britain on January 8, 1820. Thirteen years later, the Al Maktoum dynasty (also a lineage of the Banu Yas clan) left Abu Dhabi and took control of Dubai from the Al Abu Falasa clan.

Through the “Exclusive Agreement of 1892,” the United Kingdom placed Dubai under its protection, agreeing to defend it against possible invasion by the Ottoman Empire.

Today, Dubai is a vibrant city teeming with mega construction projects. It has become a favorite tourist destination and a strong trading center in the world. But despite this transformation to modernity, Dubai has retained its rich Islamic culture.

Dubai Public Holidays

The beautiful city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) officially observes ten holidays every year. Of these ten official Dubai holidays, five are marked as important dates on the Islamic calendar. These are the Islamic New Year, Eid Milad an Nabi, Lailat al Miraj, Eid Al Fitr, and Eid Al Adha.

The other three official Dubai holidays are exclusive to Dubai or the UAE (The Dubai Shopping Festival, His Highness Sheikh Zayed’s Ascension Day, and the National Day), while the last two are observances adopted from Western tradition (New Year’s Day and Christmas).

Let’s understand the significance of each of these holidays:

1. New Year’s Day (January 1):

This is one of two holidays adopted from the West that is officially observed in Dubai. Hence, Dubai observes the occasion also at the start of the new Gregorian year, which is January 1.

2. Islamic New Year (approx. February-March):

This occasion is observed on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. It is the occasion when many Muslims remember the significance of the Hijra, or the migration, when the prophet Muhammad and his followers made it to the city now known as Medina in 622 (CE).

3. The Dubai Shopping Festival (First Quarter of the Gregorian Year):

An annual retail event that is also popularly referred to by its initials DSF, the Dubai Shopping Festival was first held on February 15, 1996, with the aim of revitalizing the city’s retail trade. The event was later promoted as a tourist attraction. Some three million people visit Dubai each year primarily because of this event.

4. “Mawlid (Eid Milad an Nabi)” or the Prophet’s Birthday (approx. April-May):

This day marks the observance of the birthday of the prophet Muhammad, which takes place on the twelfth day of Rabi II, the fourth month in the Islamic calendar.

5. “Lailat al Miraj” or the Ascension of the Prophet (approx. September):

This is one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar. Around the year 621 (CE), the prophet Muhammad embarked on what is known as the “Night Journey”, when he was spiritually transported to heaven. The event is observed on the twenty-seventh day of Rajab, the seventh month in the Islamic calendar.

6. H.H. Sheikh Zayed’s Ascension Day (August 6):

Through the observance of this event, Dubai remembers the great achievements of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, whose vision has placed the UAE among the top countries in the world, especially in terms of security and financial stability. It was on August 6, 1966 when Sheikh Zayed ascended to power and ruled the UAE until his death on November 2, 2004.

7. “Eid Al Fitr” (approx. November):

This holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Eid is Arabic for “festivity”, while Fitr means “to break fast”. Hence, the holiday serves as a symbol of the breaking of the fasting period. The occasion is observed after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan, on the first day of Shawaal (the tenth month in the Islamic calendar).

8. National Day (December 2):

This is the most significant occasion in the history of Dubai. It was on December 2, 1971 when Dubai gained independence from British colonial rule. Every year on this same day since then, the National Day of Dubai is held. The occasion is a celebration of honor, pride and patriotism.

9. “Eid Al Adha” or the Festival of Sacrifice (approx. January-February):

Also referred to as the “Greater Eid”, this is a holiday celebrated by Muslims throughout the world, as a way of commemorating Abraham’s (Ibrahim’s) act of obedience to God with his show of willingness to sacrifice his only son. Besides this, the occasion likewise provides the people of Dubai the opportunity of simply spending time with their families and enjoying the fact that they all have food to eat and homes for shelter.

10. Christmas (December 25):

Yes, Christmas is celebrated in this predominantly Muslim state. Visitors to Dubai during this period find Christmas trees and decorations in stores. Children also have lots of fun having their pictures taken with a man dressed as Santa Claus in some of the malls.

Understanding the different Dubai holidays and knowing when each of these takes place will help you plan or organize a perfect trip to this marvelous city in the UAE.