We take a look at the history of Guy Fawkes Night, and whether it's celebrated in the UAE
21 October 2019| Last updated on 21 October 2019
Remember, remember, the 5th of November...
Every year, on the 5th of November, fireworks can be seen lighting up the skies in the UK. Since there are many British expats living in Dubai, we want to explore whether the evening is celebrated here, and what expats can do to mark the occasion.
Unfortunately, since it is primarily a British celebration, there are few activities or events that occur in Dubai.
Things to do vary each year, so it's advisable to keep an eye out in your community closer to the date. Check out your local golf club, like the Arabian Ranches Golf Club, or members club like Jebel Ali Recreational Club, to see if they're hosting anything you can join in. If your child attends a British curriculum school, it's also worth asking teachers there if they'll be doing any activities for the day.
The history of Bonfire Night
This UK-dedicated event to bonfires and fireworks celebrates the failure of Britain's most notorious traitor, Guy Fawkes, who, along with 12 other Catholic conspirators, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the reigning Protestant, King James I in 1605.
Unfortunately for Guy Fawkes, he was discovered in the cellar below the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder. On the morning of November 5th, soldiers found and arrested him and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in public shortly after.
However, his fate was met by a different ending. While waiting on the gallows, he leaped off the platform, breaking his neck and he died instantly.
Following this, an Act of Parliament was passed to appoint November 5th as an annual day of thanksgiving.
Fireworks for personal use in the UAE are illegal, so expats rely on organised events
How Bonfire Night is celebrated
Fireworks and sparklers
Households across the UK will have fireworks displays. You would either host one, go to a friend’s house or big local parks to view the dazzling fireworks.
Sparklers are also a popular choice for all - these small, metal sticks ignite and can be twirled in the air to make patterns.
Additionally, bonfires are a popular way to mark the night. Large fires are created in back gardens, and local councils will host bonfire events in local parks or at clubs. It’s a great way to stay warm outside as November is very cold in the UK. You can be toasty while watching the impressive firework displays.
It's traditional to put a 'Guy' effigy on the fire before setting off the bonfire and fireworks, and until the 1980s, children would wheel a homemade man around in a wheelbarrow, asking for a 'penny for the guy'.
Typically, celebrants will enjoy some foods and dishes that are associated with Bonfire Night only; these include toffee apples, pie and mushy peas, and Parkin cake. Other, more modern, foods include hot dogs and burgers that are cooked outside.
How to celebrate Bonfire Night in Dubai
As mentioned, since it's only a British holiday, few events happen in Dubai or the UAE overall - but that's not to say nothing is on the calendar. Events vary every year, and you'll find some local golf clubs will host events for expats to join in.
Previously, locations like Emirates Golf Club and Arabian Ranches Golf Club have hosted Bonfire Night activities and entertainment for British expatriates.
We'd also recommend reaching out to your child's school if they're in a British curriculum school, since they may be hosting activities for you to get involved with.
Avoid at-home fireworks displays
Unfortunately, due to Dubai's strict laws surrounding fireworks and purchasing them, expats are unable to have firework displays or bonfires in their own gardens like in the UK. In fact, if you're caught in the possession of fireworks, you'll be dealt with in the same way as an individual who is in possession of explosives.
Only licenced companies with the skills, training and safety procedures in place are able to handle fireworks and fireworks displays legally in Dubai. Event organisers must have the permission of the Dubai Police and Dubai Municipality before using fireworks. The use of fireworks in Dubai is considered an activity that affects airspace – and thus the correct approvals from the General Civil Aviation Authority need to be obtained.
Why not head out into the desert?
Gather up some friends and drive out into the desert together to celebrate Bonfire Night. Gather wood, pack a picnic and some blankets, and enjoy celebrating the holiday under the moon and stars in the lovely, cool November weather.