The UAE is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, and these photos prove it…

There are more than 200 nationalities – and consequently many religions – co-existing in the UAE, and pictures of the church mass at the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha this week show how, despite many misconceptions, people can openly practice religion in Dubai.

This week marks Simbang Gabi – a Filipino Catholic series of masses (often held over nine days) that is performed in anticipation of Christmas. Last night was the fifth night of Simbang Gabi in Dubai.

*ALSO READ: Sheikh Mohammed’s new bid for a more tolerant region*

As you can see in these pictures, the worshippers couldn’t all fit in the church on Simbang Gabi’s first night, and so stood outside the compound and on the pedestrian bridge nearby so they could be part of the ceremonies:




This particular church, Saint Marys, is celebrating its 50th year of service in the UAE this year – meaning it opened its doors in 1966.

Crowds of this size will also likely be seen for Christmas masses soon and Easter masses next year.


In an open letter on LinkedIn, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, discussed the need for an ideological shift and a move towards tolerance in many parts of the world:

“What makes us proud of our nation is not the height of our buildings, the breadth of our streets, or the magnitude of our shopping malls, but rather the openness and tolerance of our nation. Our pride stems from the fact that we are a country where everyone thrives equally regardless of their differences, with true love and acceptance: a country where people live and work harmoniously, raising their children to enjoy a future free of the fear of extremism, intolerance or discrimination based on their race, color, religion, sect or ethnicity.”


Sheikh Mohammed meets with a Dubai-based religious leader

Earlier this year, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, met with the Pope in the Vatican:



There are many churches of many denominations dotted around the UAE, but here’s a start if you’re keen to celebrate Christmas with a mass. The Christmas mass timings can be found on the websites or by phoning them…

Holy Trinity Church, Oud Metha

St Francis of Assisi, Jebel Ali

Saint Mary’s Church, Oud Metha


The Dubai Evangelical Church Centre, Jebel Ali

Fellowship of the Emirates, Internet City & Garhoud

Well of Life, Al Quoz

Saint Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, Jebel Ali

Dubai Mar Thoma Church, Jebel Ali


While many governments have charters on housing or health, the UAE has just launched the world’s first formal Tolerance Charter, the effects of which we should see trickling down to everyday life here soon.

The charter is all about spreading tolerance, peace and coexistence throughout the region, while also encouraging cultural diversity.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, who is the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance, announced the charter, explaining that it will aim to combat bigotry, extremism and racism. She also highlighted how the charter and the discussions around it will work to highlight the true essence of Islam.

lubna al qassimi

The UAE’s Minister of Tolerance – Lubna Al Qassimi

She went on to explain the that Ministry of Tolerance is dedicated to promoting the true image of Islam not only in the UAE, where 200 nationalities live side-by-side, but also around the world, where the vision of Muslims is often distorted.

The National Tolerance Programme in the UAE is part of Sheikh Mohammed’s vision for 2021 and it follows five main edicts: international conventions, common human values, the UAE constitution, Sheikh Zayed’s vision and the teachings of Islam.

The programme currently works across five main areas: “strengthening the government’s role as an ‘incubator’ for tolerance; consolidating the family’s role in nation building; promoting tolerance among youth and steering them away from extremism; enriching scientific and cultural content; and integrating international efforts to promote tolerance.”

Main photos: Flickr/SaintMarysDubai

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