Home Lifestyle Culture & Entertainment Expat guide to English language entertainment in the UAE
Last update on March 19, 2020
Carol Moore Written by Carol Moore

From movie theaters to opera houses, and concert halls to TV channels, there is a world of English-language entertainment in the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates is a major cultural and entertainment hotspot for expats and locals who call it home. Needless to say, if you are moving there, you will have a variety of arts to explore; without the language barrier.

English entertainment in Dubai

Since around 75% of the population of Dubai is made up of expats, the city boasts a thriving English-language entertainment scene. Whether you want to catch a movie or play at one of the state-of-the-art multiplexes or watch TV at home, you aren’t short on options. Here is some of the best English-language entertainment in the UAE.

Movie theaters

If you fancy watching the latest Hollywood blockbusters on the big screen, there are several large multiplexes that show them in English. The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall, and Al Ghurair Centre all boast huge Dolby Cinema movie theaters. Here, guests can enjoy the latest flicks with high-tech surround sound. For full immersion, ScreenX in The Dubai Mall shows English-language films on a gigantic, 270-degree wrap-around screen.

Outdoor cinema Dubai
Vox OUTDOOR at Galleria Mall, Dubai

For ultimate luxury, however, you can relax in the plush leather reclining chairs in the private lounge at Roxy Platinum Plus. Alternatively, you can head to one of the two Vox OUTDOOR cinemas and enjoy the latest flicks under the stars; with a cool cocktail in hand. And if you fancy a beer and snacks with your movie, then pop to the Jebel Ali Recreation Club; the first licensed theater which opened back in 2018.

Avid film lovers will no doubt enjoy a visit to the Dubai International Film Festival. Usually held in December, the annual event showcases the latest English-language and Arabic movies; with English subtitles. Not surprisingly, it remains a firm favorite with expats and locals alike.

Theater and dance

Centrally located between Asia, Africa, and Europe, Dubai is the main stage for artistic collaborations and innovative artistic performances. As a result, you will find a good choice of English-language concerts and shows in some pretty impressive locations. If you want to make a night of it, why not dress up for the Dubai Opera and enjoy an English-language ballet, comedy, or recital. With shows suitable for all ages, you can marvel at the state-of-the-art 2,000-seat theater which overlooks the beautiful Burj Lake.

Dubai Opera House at night
Dubai Opera

If you fancy a giggle, however, the Courtyard Playhouse theater in Downtown Dubai offers a bustling schedule of English-speaking performances, stand-up comedy, and improv. You can even sign up for one of the amateur dramatics’ classes – if you’re brave enough! Meanwhile, The Junction performing arts center attracts many international English-speaking professional acts, including top Broadway and West-End talent.

Live music venues

Dubai boasts a diverse music scene with leading talent performing in concerts and musicals. MusicHall at the impressive Palm Jumeirah complex provides an unforgettable experience of live international music acts. Meanwhile, the Hard Rock Café, inside Dubai Festival City, draws expats through its door with a variety of live music; from jazz and pop acts to tribute bands which cover tracks from ABBA to Ed Sheeran.

MusicHall at Palm Jumeirah
MusicHall at Palm Jumeirah

Jazz and blues lovers, on the other hand, will find Blue Bar at the Novotel difficult to resist for their fix of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. This vibrant venue attracts a mix of all age groups with its delicious signature cocktails; all named after famous jazz singers.

TV and radio

If you want to relax in front of the TV and watch your favorite programs from back home, there are several free-to-air TV channels in Dubai. Dubai ON Demand is set to become the latest leading English-language online channel catering to expats in the city. Other contenders such as Dubai One, MBC 4, MBC Action, MBC 2, and City 7 TV all broadcast their content in English, with Arabic subtitles.

Dubai on Demand presenters
Dubai ON Demand presenters

If you are stuck in a heavy traffic jam on your way to work, there are numerous English-speaking radio stations to help pass the time. You can find everything from Dubai Eye; which broadcasts political updates in English, to Capital Radio; which airs top hits from the 60s to the 90s. Radio 1 appeals to the younger crowd with its top 40, DJs, and latest dance music tracks. Meanwhile, Radio 2 holds the older generation’s attention with a lineup of classic international hits.

Newspapers

Life in Dubai is constantly evolving, and new developments and projects are a daily occurrence. To keep abreast of this information, you will want to get your hands on an English language newspaper. If you can stand the heat, pop out to your local store for a copy of the Khaleej Times; this is distributed throughout the entire Emirates.

Khaleej Times

If it’s too hot to venture out, however, you can get local and international news updates online. Refer to this handy list of all international language newspaper publications.

English entertainment in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has a slightly smaller, but equally lively, English-language entertainment scene. As a result, the large expat community is well catered for with international movie nights, vibrant brunches, and more.

Movie theaters

One way to escape the scorching heat is to catch a film at one of Abu Dhabi’s high-end movie theaters. Here you will discover a wide selection of English-speaking movies for all the family to enjoy. If you love world cinema, Cinema Space screens both Hollywood blockbusters and foreign films for free, accompanied by English subtitles.

MAX
MAX theatre, VOX Cinemas at Abu Dhabi Mall

Meanwhile, VOX Cinemas in Abu Dhabi Mall offers a bright and colorful KIDS Cinema as well as a whopping 20m-wide mega screen in its MAX theatre. There is also a play area for kids to let loose in before settling down to watch all the latest animated films, in English, on the big screen.

Theater and dance

Abu Dhabi offers a handful of performing arts venues where expats can watch the latest shows in English. NYUAD The Arts Center, for instance, is conveniently located inside New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus.

NYUAD Arts Center
Slam Competition & Open Mic Night at NYUAD Arts Center

As one of Abu Dhabi’s leading performing arts institutions, it boasts several state-of-the-art theaters, a project space gallery, and film editing studios and classrooms. Distinguished professionals from across the world perform here and visitors can book to see them via an easy-to-use website.

Live music venues

Big stars such as Rihanna, Madonna, The Killers, and The Rolling Stones have graced the stage at du Arena, the largest open-air venue in the Middle East. Also home to family festivals such as Taste of Abu Dhabi, and dance festival Creamfields, the venue is a firm favorite among expats.

The Rolling Stones performing at du Arena
The Rolling Stones performing at du Arena

For a more low-key evening, Heroes bar in the Crowne Plaza is the only venue in town that is open until 4 am. Expats flock here to watch rock bands belt out English-language hits while enjoying a lengthy happy hour that lasts from 12.00 to 20.00. Arrive here early, however, as seats fill up fast.

PJ O’Reilly’s Irish pub is another popular spot among expats looking to enjoy an evening with friends while listening to some great bands over a Guinness. Similarly, Porters Pub offers a lively expat scene and international acts, with attractive deals and promotions drawing punters through its doors, every night of the week.

TV and radio

If you love soap operas, be prepared to wait for your fix of TV drama, as most free-to-air English speaking channels are often six-months behind their paying alternatives. If you choose to pay for a satellite package, however, you will find a much wider and up-to-date variety of English-language programs. OSN, for instance, offers very competitive rates with a good range of English-language sports, movies, and series. Etisalat and du are the other main market-leaders in English-language speaking cable TV and can install cable in your home.

Newspapers

Expats can catch up on the latest news and politics with the leading English-language daily newspaper, Khaleej Times. And if you are too busy hitting the gorgeous beaches in the Emirates to watch your favorite sports you can always check Sport 360 for the latest online information and follow your team’s result.