Time was, a festival in Dubai meant a darts game at the Red Lion. Given our location, plus a tiny population, there was never going to be anything so grandiose as to be tagged an ‘event’, and bar the odd visiting comic or random band, entertainment was a struggle, at best. And I’m not talking forever here; even going back, say, 20 years, you’d struggle for anything above what you’d find in a Northern English working men’s club.

Now look at us.

We all know that Dubai, architecturally, is virtually unrecognisable from back then, but I’d argue that goes double for what’s happening with our entertainment lives, with the last few years especially buoyant. It’s incredibly heartening to see so many fantastic shows and events springing up across the city. Sandance is a fantastic example – with last month’s show probably one of their best yet. Fantastically, Done Events held their Alicia Keys concert – on the same night – and still managed to draw a massive crowd. Two genuinely huge events, on the same night, both packing them in. It really feels like we’ve turned a very big corner here in the Emirates.

And that brings us nicely to possibly one of my favourite Dubai festivals, which kicks off on Friday and stands imposing over the rest of the week – the Dubai International Film Festival, or DIFF to those in the know (or to those who are capable of putting together letters to make an acronym, anyway…).

I love DIFF. I love its variety, I love the way it seeks to challenge the ordinary. Yes, OK, like any film festival it comes complete with the glitz and the glamour, with its big name movie stars and red carpet nights, and even though I’m lucky enough to have been invited to the big events, it’s actually exploring the vast, very random, occasionally quirky and, more often than not, brilliant range of movies on offer that I much prefer. It certainly beats a game of darts.

Of course, we can’t just drift through the week without sampling the rest of what Dubai has to offer. So let’s begin with food and the ever fierce debate about which country is responsible for mine – and indeed your – favourite cuisine. Indian, of course, ranks highly with most, as does Chinese, French, Italian, and even English (and I’m not just talking chips and gravy). Imagine my surprise then, when Peru, the comparatively small South American nation, was this week named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination for the second year in a row. It seems I have been missing a trick, though thankfully the experts over here haven’t. So I’m off to Toro Toro this week, at the Grosvenor House hotel in the Marina to sample the best in ceviche, skewers and empanadas. You might also want to try The Act.

Staying in The Americas, I was thrilled to hear a new Mexican will be opening at Madinat Jumeirah in a little while, though I hope we don’t see the restaurant’s name served… Tortuga translates as ‘tortoise’ in Spanish!

Elsewhere, this week sees the return of the Laughter Factory to the Movenpick on JBR, as well as the Punchline Comedy Club at Jumeirah Creekside Hotel

The first hint that we are on the countdown to the festive period will be evident when the Dubai Christmas Festival takes over the Amphitheatre in Media City.

Talking of the Amphitheatre, did we tell you about our awards night?….