A desert escape…

There’s a world beyond the city limits, a virtually uninhabited desert, approximately 150 kilometres southwest of Abu Dhabi. You might stumble upon the odd verdant oasis between the magnificent mountainous dunes, a wandering camel perhaps or weekending off-roaders, but for much of the year, it remains a vast and quiet landscape. All of that changes this weekend as Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Village Festival makes its welcome return.

Taking place from December 8 to 31, this mini-oasis city weaves together authentic Emirati heritage with ‘made for Instagram’ activities, exciting culinary kiosks, live music and a splash of urban fashion.


Here’s a look at what’s going on…


Chanelling the energy of the UAE’s history is the ‘Souk’ district, a heritage area within Liwa Village, built to resemble traders’ homes topped by traditional wind towers. You’ll find various dining options and live Emirati cooking demonstrations, retail outlets, an on-site spice market, henna painting, workshops focusing on traditional crafts and techniques, and an enchanting rooftop restaurant that overlooks the entire village.

liwa festival


Welcome to the family-friendly zone, a neon-lit amusement park with a carousel, trampolines, virtual reality fun, street performers, fairground games, and a general sense of ‘step right up!’ revelry.


Exactly as it sounds, the Oasis is Liwa Village’s chill zone. Find a sofa to relax with friends before ordering some grub from a local kiosk. Last year’s options included Emirati-owned burger hotspot High Joint, among others including Let’s Café, Culinary Boutique and DRVN, so expect much of the same this year.

Liwa Festival Falconry


Liwa Village’s answer to Expo 2020’s Wasl Dome, Pavilion is in the heart of the festival. A serene and tranquil environment, encompassed in greenery, serves as a picturesque rest-stop.

Main Stage

The biggest zone in Liwa Village is also the loudest. Last year, the Main Stage hosted live performances, which had a largely Arabian flavour, with special shows from talented regional artists as Abdullah Ruwaished, Khaled Al Mulla, Abadi Al Johar, and Mutref Al Mutref. There was, of course, an enormous curveball last year with a special performance from multi-award-winning American rapper Ludacris.

The musical roster for this edition is still under wraps, but organisers promise a “thrilling line-up of performances across four weekends featuring A-list talents, both regional and global”, so be sure to keep an eye out on whatson.ae for the latest.

NYE celebrations

In search of the antithesis of a luxury hotel NYE gala dinner this year? Consider heading for the dunes on December 31 as Liwa Village rounds out the festival by ringing in the New Year with an as-yet undisclosed concert, and a breathtaking fireworks display.

Liwa Village, near Moreeb Dune, off Obaid Bin Kenaish Alhameli Street, Liwa, Abu Dhabi, December 8 to 31,
from Dhs15. liwavillage.ae 

Images: Supplied