An insider’s guide to the best festivals and events in Abu Dhabi, including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival , UAE National Day and Creamfields Festival Abu Dhabi 2015. By Rosemary Behan, Telegraph Travel’s Abu Dhabi expert.
Calendar of events and festivals
A calendar of Abu Dhabi’s events is available online (abudhabievents.ae). Below are some of the highlights.
The biggest and best events in Abu Dhabi (many of which take place outside) are held during the winter months and peak tourist season from October to April.
June 18-July 17
While some visitors may like experiencing the riot of life that comes about after sunset on these days, as locals break the fast and lavish buffets are available at hotels, the daylight hours can seem like lean periods with a reduction in food and alcohol that’s available (most cafés and restaurants outside hotels are closed, and hotels reduce their offerings). This combined with the hot weather makes it a less than ideal time to visit for most people.
Abu Dhabi Film Festival
The UAE capital’s own film festival, based at Emirates Palace and local cinemas, is a great opportunity to see accessible Middle Eastern or European films with English subtitles, some of which will have shown in Venice or Cannes.
Admission: tickets from Dh30 per screening
Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix
A highlight of Abu Dhabi’s annual sporting and social calendar is the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. All the racing action takes place at the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island, close to Abu Dhabi International Airport, with the track built around the futuristic and recently rebranded Yas Viceroy hotel. Outdoor concerts are hosted at the nearby du Arena on Yas Island (next to Ferrari World).
Admission: tickets are not yet on sale, but you can pre-register at yasmarinacircuit.com
Abu Dhabi Art 2015
Abu Dhabi’s own commercial modern art fair at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, has a growing range of local and international art from galleries all over the world, plus a good variety of talks and workshops, most of which are free.
UAE National Day
November 28-December 2
UAE National Day is the anniversary of the formation of the UAE in 1971. Huge fireworks displays, car parades and concerts take place, mainly on Abu Dhabi Corniche and in Downtown Dubai, as tens of thousands of Emiratis celebrate on the streets.
Admission: there is no entry procedure or fee to pay, but expect traffic congestion on December 2
Al Dhafra Festival
Primarily a camel festival, this event near the town of Madinat Zayed, a 90 minute drive from Abu Dhabi also gives visitors the opportunity to see the desert. Camel traders arrive with their prize stock from across the Gulf and Bedouin women sell handicrafts. Highlights are the camel beauty contest and falconry events. The event is free and free coaches to the Western Region are available from Abu Dhabi.
Creamfields Abu Dhabi 2015
Acts such as Calvin Harris and Armin Van Buuren are two of the confirmed acts at this dance music event at the du Arena on Yas Island.
Admission: early bird tickets from DH150 (£25)