Milk, cookies, and shawarma.

To be a Santa Claus in Dubai, one of the world’s most diverse cities, it helps to be multilingual.

Luckily, the in-house Santa at the Le Meridien Dubai Hotel is fluent in four languages.

“I speak French, English, German and Spanish. I’m working on my Arabic and Russian, as well.”

With more than 200 nationalities living in the UAE, Santa gets a pretty good cross section of the 1.6 billion children he’ll be delivering presents to this Christmas Eve.

In the lead-up to the big day, he’s had visitors from Lebanon, India, France, and the UK, as well as local Emirati children.

“It’s lovely to see so many children from so many different countries,” Santa says. “Not everybody celebrates Christmas, of course. But they just love to see Santa and say hello.”

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Though Santa is normally based in the North Pole, he says his residency in Dubai has its logistical advantages.

“Dubai is very centralised, you see. From here, I can rapidly fly to Africa or Asia – it’s very good for me.”

While Santa remains loyal to his reindeer fleet, he admits he needs a slightly hardier animal for negotiating the UAE’s desert terrain.

“Yes, I will be riding a camel on the 25th.”

And how does he unwind when it’s all over? Well, it’s pretty much Santa’s version of recovering from a Friday brunch.

“I try to digest all the cookies and milk I ate the night before. I’ve also been offered shawarma in the past. I like that, it’s very nice.”

You heard it here first, folks – Dubai Santa loves his shawarma.

Visit Santa Claus at The Santa Garden, Le Meridien Dubai, 4pm to 8pm, until December 24. Entrance to The Santa Garden is free, Santa visits and gingerbread decorating activity cost Dhs25 each per child. More info on website.

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