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Arab world tones down New Year's amid Gaza crisis

Arab world tones down New Year's amid Gaza crisis

Dubai hotels scrambled to rework New Year's plans Wednesday after the tourist spot joined parts of the Arab world in muting holiday festivities because of the violence in Gaza.
Beachfront fireworks at the recently opened Atlantis hotel were called off and live music acts were canceled following a last-minute order from the emirate's ruler officially banning "all forms of celebrations."
Concerts were also nixed elsewhere in the region, including in Israel's neighbors Egypt and Jordan.
Dubai's order, announced by state news agency WAM late Tuesday, called for "a somber tone as a token of solidarity" with the Palestinian people and with the Gaza Strip in particular.
It was unclear if the ban truly marked a halt to the ritzy city-state's famous champagne dinners and raucous bar bashes, however. Many hotels, which are generally the only places licensed to serve alcohol, said they planned to keep food and drink sites open, but at a lower key.
Habib Khan, who manages the 4-star downtown Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, said he supported the move.
"One night (of) business does not make us rich or poor," he said when asked if business would be hurt by the decision.
New Year's Eve is one of the busiest times of the year for Dubai's hotel bars and restaurants, which typically boast lavish dinner packages at steep entry fees. The iconic sail-shaped Burj al-Arab was offering one of the dearest: a gala post-cocktail feast followed by live music and dancing for 9,900 dirhams ($2,697) a person.
The hotel's parent, Jumeirah Group, which is controlled by Dubai's ruler, did not respond to requests for comment about possible changes to its New Year's plans.
A number of New Year's celebrations were also canceled in Jordan, where roughly half of the 5.8 million people are of Palestinian descent from families displaced in two wars with Israel since 1948.
Hotels, restaurants, malls and private parties in the capital, Amman, as well as the Red Sea resort of Aqaba and the ancient rose-rock city of Petra, announced their New Year's cancellations in the local press.
In Amman, concerts featuring renowned singers May Hariri from Lebanon and Tunisian Ahmad Sharif were called off. Organizer Elias Nehme said the singers initially planned to go ahead with their concert to benefit the war-stricken strip but later reconsidered, saying it "a shame to have a party while people are dying" in Gaza.
Egypt's culture and information ministries canceled official celebrations, including a concert with Egyptian superstar Mohammed Mounir at the Cairo Opera House.
However, most private hotels and clubs appeared to be going forward with their New Year events.
At one of the two Four Seasons Hotels in Cairo, guests paying $271 (1,500 Egyptian pounds) per person could be treated to a five-course celebratory dinner set to classical music.
"We are not canceling any reservations," said Ahmed Ghany, the restaurant manager at Seasons, where the dinner was taking place. He added that no prospective guests had canceled their reservations. "The situation is far from us," he said.
At Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt's main vacation resort on the Sinai Peninsula, security was heightened but most clubs and restaurants appeared to still be in the festive mood.
"In Sharm everything is still going on as planned," said Ranya Barakat, who owns two newspapers that cover the Sinai peninsula. However, she said there was more security than normal in the area, and authorities appeared to be checking every car that did not have Sinai plates. "There is very, very high security."
Bahrain News Agency said Wednesday afternoon that all New Year's concerts will be canceled in support of Gaza following a directive by the tiny island state's king. Hotels were also asked to abide by the ruling.
In Baghdad, New Year's celebrations were canceled due to the Islamic holiday of Muharram, and hotels and private clubs that usually host such parties have called them off. Muharram is important to Shiites, who dominate the government. Parties will still be held in the predominantly Sunni northern Kurdish region.
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Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana in Cairo, Dale Gavlak in Amman and Patrick Quinn in Baghdad contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-05 17:36 GMT+08:00