Hotels cancel, move New Year events inside

UPDATE 7: All outdoor events banned, hotels face fines if they violate ruler's order.
Hotels cancel, move New Year events inside
By Andy Sambidge, Claire Ferris-Lay and Alex Delmar-Morgan
Tue 30 Dec 2008 09:45 PM

All outdoor events to celebrate the New Year in Dubai, including fireworks and loud music, have been banned, following a decision by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to cancel all events.According to Sheikh Mohammed's order, Dubai will mark the New Year with a "sombre tone" as a token of solidarity with the Palestinian people in general and Gaza Strip in particular which is currently under the barrage of Israeli's military fire.

Arabian Business has contacted a number of hotels and party organisers who have had to cancel events or move them inside.

Amid growing confusion about what type of event will be banned, an employee in the Dubai government's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) permission department said all New Year celebrations would be cancelled while no fireworks or outdoor music would be allowed. Any hotel found to be violating the rules would be fined, she said.

"If it’s a normal dinner, for instance people have booked it three months in advance, in a hotel that’s fine, but if it’s specifically a New Year’s party - that should be cancelled. If hotels fail to adhere to those rules they will be fined," she added.

The newly opened Atlantis Hotel on the Palm, whose lavish opening party was watched by millions across the world last month, has cancelled its fireworks display due to start at midnight.

Le Meridien Dubai, near the airport, confirmed that its outdoor event would be moved inside the Great Ball Room for the celebrations while all other events will continue as planned.

A number of hotels, including the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Madinat Jumeirah told Arabian Business on Wednesday morning that managers were in meetings and a decision on whether their New Year activities would go ahead would be made later in the day.

Tour operator Desert Safari Dubai said it had cancelled all its New Year parties until an announcement by the government later on Wednesday morning. The group was offering a New Years Eve Desert Safari and a Dhow Dinner Cruise along the creek. Customers will get a full refund if the trips do not go ahead.

At the Irish Village in Garhoud live music has been cancelled and dancing banned.

Those who bought a ticket will receive free food and be able to buy alcoholic drinks as normal. Background music will be played at a low volume.

Food and beverages manager Dave Cattanach said he had received the guidelines from the Dubai Tourist Board earlier this morning. "We have to follow the rules. All we are concerned with now is looking after our customers."

Tickets, which cost between 250 dirhams and 300 dirhams are refundable. Alternatively, customers can buy food and alcohol to the face value of the ticket tonight and for the next six months.

Century Village's street party has been cancelled and the all you can eat and drink packages have been replaced with seperate food and beverage bills.

Those who had already paid 750 dirhams to eat at the Da Gama Resturant have been told they will be refunded next week if they no longer want to attend.

A member of staff at Dubai Marine Resort where guests have paid up to 2,000 dirhams each to attend the hotel's Gala Dinner, told Arabian Business that the hotel was still waiting for official confirmation but had been advised to dispense of decorations and fireworks and keep noise to a minimum.

Meanwhile, Egypt has also cancelled official New Year's Eve events in solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinians being "massacred" in Gaza, the state-owned Al-Ahram daily reported on Wednesday.

"In solidarity with the painful events in the Palestinian territories and the massacres which Gazans are faced with ... the ministries of culture and information have decided to cancel New Year's festivities," the paper said.

Cancelled events include a special concert by famed Egyptian singer Mohammed Munir set to be held at Cairo's Opera House and a variety performance hosted by the ministry of information due to be broadcast on state television.

Egyptian state television official Ossama al-Sheikh said on Tuesday that the launch of new channel "Nile Comedy," set for January 1, would be delayed "out of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip."

In Jordan several five-star hotels and restaurants in the capital Amman and other cities including the ancient Nabataean city of Petra and the Red Sea port of Aqaba, cancelled New Year celebrations.

"The decision to cancel the celebrations has been taken in solidarity with our people in Gaza," Michel Nazzal, head of the Jordanian Hotel Association, said in a statement.

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