New Year: Dubai, countdown begins tonight



It is already New Year in Dubai. The countdown to 2012 begins tonight with a spectacular firework display at Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, and a concert by Boy George, the star of the iconic and now reunited 1980s group Culture Club, the first in a series of musical events that will end with the performance by the most current of English outfits, Coldplay, who will perform in Abu Dhabi on the evening of New Year’s Eve.

The event of the year, in a place that does not seem remotely concerned with either the leaden financial crises or the bellicose political crises that are heightening on the other side of the nearby Strait of Hormuz, will be the retro gala evening on board the Queen Elizabeth 2, where elegance is de rigueur for an evening rubbing shoulders with celebrities, diplomats, members of the royal family and dignitaries from the Emirati courts and other oil-rich Gulf monarchies.

The ship, which has crossed the Atlantic 800 times in its 40-year history, has been purchased, allowing it to be moored once and for all to one of the branches of Palm Jumeirah, the artificial palm tree-shaped island, by the Dubai-based investment company Istithmar, which has turned it into a museum.

Not to be missed for the super-trendy and party-goers are the sophisticated and exclusive Club Cavalli, designed by the famous Italian stylist, and the ultra-popular Nasimi Beach, at Atlantis, on the final branch of Palm Jumeirah, which has already been the setting for exclusive beach parties this year.

The opulent fireworks at Borj Khalifah are evocative, spectacular and devilishly costly and will be one of the main sights of New Year’s celebrations but are not the only display.

Dubai will be lit up at midnight by 15 minutes of spectacular fireworks rising up from Borj Al Arab, the most luxurious – and tallest – hotel in the world, known also as the Sail, from Atlantis in Palm Jumeirah, and from the Global Village, which is located where Dubai meets the desert behind it.

Mindful of the unprecedented chaos in Dubai a year ago in the hours following New Year’s celebrations, when the Emirate was entirely parlaysed until dawn with traffic jams, non-existent public transport and dozens of people fainting, the local authorities have this year launched a traffic scheme which will see thousands of parking spaces made available, an uninterrupted underground service, guaranteed and extended bus services and more than 4,000 taxis to deal with the estimated one million people who will flock to the Downtown and to the foot of Borj Khalifa. More info