2022 Year in Review: 22 things we loved in the UAE

2022 Year in Review: 22 things we loved in the UAE



Whether it was football, food or Formula One, here are the highlights from the last 12 months.  

As we say goodbye to one year and hello to another, 2022 has been special. 

We mourned together following the death of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and HMH Queen Elizabeth II. We celebrated together at the Asia Cup 2022 and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. And it's fair to say, judging by the crowds in the UAE, we were all Moroccan by the football semi-finals. 

The UAE's food industry finally got the recognition it deserved, as the MICHELIN inspectors confirmed what we already know: we've got a dazzling restaurant scene. (Note: we nabbed 14 MICHELIN Stars.) Plus, Sheikh Hamdan continued to give restaurants the royal seal of approval. 

While we're used to the stream of celebrity chefs in the UAE, we suddenly had stars in our eyes, as A-lister after A-lister descended on Abu Dhabi. The capital got into the groove and welcomed K Poppers, R&B legends and John Legend (in The Louvre, no less). 

Can you really call yourself a UAE resident if you didn't get your passport stamped at Expo 2020 Dubai? Bonus points if you made it through #dubaiproblems and secured a taxi during Expo or a table at The Nice Guy. If you managed not to take a photo at The Pods, we salute you. Oh, and a golden visa will be coming your way if you finished Dubai Bling. 

This year, 'immersive experience' was the most overused phrase, and we're still scratching our heads over the metaverse. Plus, the UAE confirmed that it's never short of ambition, as megaprojects were announced as regularly as tram stops.  

We hope you enjoy this love letter to the last twelve months. Here are 22 things we loved in the UAE in 2022. 

Asia Cup 2022

If you know your innings from your googly, then you must have been excited when the Asia Cup 2022, which was originally going to be held in Sri Lanka, made its way to the UAE. Running from August to September, it offered a rare chance to see some of the world's greatest cricketers in the UAE. The thrilling finale saw Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 23 runs.

Asia Cup 2022

Atlantis, The Royal

In the UAE, we are used to seeing structures rise from the sand and into the sky. One of the more curious creations has been Dubai's giant Tetris-like building – Atlantis The Royal. While it hasn't officially opened this year, we did finally get a peek inside the ultra-luxury hotel. In November, Tiesto and Tate McRae's 10:35 music video, gave us an MTV-like look inside. So far, we know that it will include 795 rooms, 102 suites, celebrity chefs, a state-of-the-art spa and a private beach stretching two kilometres. In true UAE-style, it will be home to the world's largest jellyfish tank (4,000, to be precise) and Skyblaze Fountain (a fire-meets-water show).

Atlantis The Royal

Bar scene 

The UAE bar scene was buzzing and three venues featured in the prestigious The World's 50 Best Bars 2022 list: Zuma, Galaxy Bar and Bulgari Bar. Superstar bartenders Jimmy Barrat opened Ergo, music and drinks were combined at Honeycomb HiFi; and speakeasies became one of the biggest trends, as Blind Tiger wowed us with its cocktails and Chef Izu surprised us with LY-LA.


Celebrity restaurants

The UAE continues to be a destination loved by celebrities from across the world, from Will Smith to David Guetta. While we're used to the Insta love, we were surprised to see a new kind of celebrity endorsement: the casual restaurant opening. The Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Oscar-winning actor Leonardo Di Caprio opened Neat Burger in The Dubai Mall, and Rapper Drake is a backer at Dave's Hot Chicken in JBR and Motor City. So far, so casual.

Dave's Hot Chicken

COVID-19 rules relaxed 

COVID-19 may feel like it has come and gone, especially thanks to the UAE's remarkable efforts to control the virus and vaccinate the population. In September, we could all (legally) take off our masks, as it was no longer mandatory in public. Plus, those travelling between Abu Dhabi and Dubai rejoiced, along with residents in the capital, as they could say goodbye to the green pass on the Al Hosn app.

COVID-19 rules in Dubai

Concerts in Abu Dhabi 

Abu Dhabi has often been in Dubai's shadow when it comes to live shows. This year, Abu Dhabi flipped the switch and announced superstar after superstar. Artists included Clean Bandit, John Legend and Kaiser Chiefs. While the Formula 1 concerts included Def Leppard, Dave, Kendrick Lamar and Usher. Oh, and special mention to Disney's The Lion King, which made its Middle East debut in the capital. 

After-Race Concerts

Expo 2020 Dubai 

Expo 2020 Dubai came and went, then came again. The original event ran until the end of March, and then the sight reopened as Expo City Dubai in October. Expo continues to be a foodie favourite, as it served up fun restaurant experiences, from food trucks to healthy bites. Plus, the first areas to reopen included Alif The Mobility Pavilion, Women's Pavilion, Vision Pavilion, Al Wasl Plaza and the Surreal water feature.

Expo City Dubai’s Fan City

Dubai Bling 

If you live in Dubai and haven't heard of Dubai Bling, you may need to have your Emirates ID revoked. The Netflix show launched in October and got Dubai trending, as it was the first time the city was on the streaming platforms most-watched list. We interviewed some of the stars including Ebraheem al Sadadi, Farhana Bodi, Safa Siddiqui and Zeina Khoury, and can confirm that they are just as bling in real life. If you want to follow in their designer footsteps, check out our guide to where the series was filmed

Dubai Bling locations

Dubai Harbour  

This year, we watched as Dubai expanded onto Dubai Harbour, which is nestled between Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah. The world's largest artificial marina has developed at UAE-speed with hotels and restaurants. At the start of the year, the Mediterranean restaurant Bar du Port Dubai opened. By the end of the year, Vida Dubai Marina & Yacht Club had opened. Plus, the FACT Award-winning best newcomer fine dining restaurant of 2022, L'Amo Bistro del Mare, is waiting to be discovered at Dubai Harbour Yacht Club. 

Halloween in Dubai

Hotel openings 

Hotel openings may as well be a national sport in the UAE. Hotels come and come, and we've been excited by hotels ranging from W Dubai – Mina Seyahi to the world's first Tomorrowland hotel, Terra Solis. We were especially impressed by Rixos Marina Abu Dhabi, which has transformed the Abu Dhabi skyline with its palatial proportions.

W Dubai - MIna Seyahi

Jais Sledder 

The UAE broke another record back in February, as it opened the longest toboggan ride in the region: Jais Sledder. Located in Jais Adventure Park, Ras Al Khaimah, it is situated at the top of the UAE's tallest peak. The ride reaches speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour, and swerves through the Hajar mountains. The fully controllable experience takes around eight minutes to cover 1,885 metres.

Jais Adventure Park

FIFA World Cup Qatar

While the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 took place in Doha, the UAE played a (loud) supporting role, thanks to daily shuttle flights and screenings. With fan zones popping up, from Yas Links on Yas Island to Budz FIFA Fan Festival hub on Dubai Harbour, the country was filled with flags. While Morocco's historic run to the semi-finals, which saw them beat Belgium, Spain and Portugal – and, in turn, make Cristiano Ronaldo cry – had us cheering along.

Alcohol at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Homegrown brands go global

We love supporting homegrown brand. So we felt proud to see local restaurants expand globally: Il Borro Tuscan Bistro in London, Kinoya in Harrods, London; Gaia in London and Monaco; The Maine in London; and Reif Othman's Reif Kushiyaki in Cairo. So, if you're heading home for the holidays or just a jet setter, you can enjoy a taste of the UAE around the world. Just remember: you ate it here first.

Dubai restaurants

K Pop stars 

K Pop fans were in for a treat. K Pop superstars came to Abu Dhabi in September for Hyperound K-Fest Abu Dhabi. The line-up included the boyband group P1Harmony; rapper Sik-K; DJ Woogie; GOT7's lead boyband member Jay B; rapper, record producer and singer Peakboy; and the rock band The Rose. The K Pop mania continued, as there was a K-Market pop-up in Jebel Ali and the first-ever BTS Pop-up: Space of BTS opened in the Middle East. If you feel like you've missed out, don't worry, BLACKPINK are coming to Abu Dhabi on 20 January 2023.

Blackpink in Riyadh


2022 was the year the metaverse went mainstream. In September, UAE-based Metarverse Holdings selected Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the first cities to be launched within the virtual world. In November, Pixoul Gaming in Abu Dhabi opened a gaming hub for amateurs and professionals. The centre hosts gaming festivals, competitions, the first-ever Esports Academy in the Middle East, and a world cross-platform metaverse. Plus, by December, Vision Club Dubai in The H Dubai became the world's first-ever metaverse-themed nightclub.

 Pixoul Gaming


The MICHELIN made their way around the UAE, and liked what they ate. In June, the first-ever MICHELIN Guide Dubai was unveiled, and the city received a grand total of 11 MICHELIN Stars. Two restaurants received two stars, and nine restaurants received one star. Then, in November, the MICHELIN Guide Abu Dhabi followed and three restaurants were awarded a MICHELIN Star. Thank you, Michelin. 

The MICHELIN Guide Abu Dhabi

Museum of the Future 

Whether it's the curves or calligraphy, it's hard not to be wowed by this architectural wonder. Museum of the Future finally opened in February, and we all got the chance to see what was inside. If you still haven't been yet, it showcases innovative solutions for the future of cities. Check out the exhibition spaces, which are dedicated to climate change, health and technology.

family-friendly attractions

Palm West Beach 

Palm West Beach is the beach that keeps on giving. The constant stream of openings have made this 1.6km promenade a hip hotspot. This year it welcomed so many swanky venues, and became a firm FACT Favourite. The highlights include Black FlamingoEsco-bar Coctel y Cocina and Tonino Lamborghini Mare Nostrum Skypool Restaurant Dubai inside Radisson Beach Resort Palm Jumeirah; and Kyma Beach Dubai, Loren, Playa and SĀN Beach inside The Club.

Black Flamingo

Pavilion at The Beach 

The brand spanking new dining destination opened on JBR back in March. Spanning more than 66,000 square feet, it is home to casual restaurants, many of which have stunning views of the Arabian Gulf. The venues include modern Japanese at Akiba Dori; the German brand Café Buur; Italian classics at Eataly, succulent steaks at Hurricane's Grill and Bar; and Mexican favourites at La Mezcaleria.

Dubai Weekend Guide

President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan  

In July, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan addressed the nation to outline the UAE's ambitions for the coming decades. The broadcast came two months after His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected the President of the UAE, following the death of his brother Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He shared how diversifying the UAE economy was important, and thanked the 200 nationalities (that's you) who participated in the growth and the development of the economy.

UAE Public Holiday

UAE megaprojects 

Will they? Won't they? Dubai's latest megaprojects – some of which were proposed, and some of which are planned – got everyone talking. Everyone had an opinion about the architectural ideas, especially Downtown Circle's 550-meter-ring around the Burj Khalifa; the world's first vertical resort, Aera Vertical Resort; and Moon Dubai's tourism destination. Note: actual megaprojects that got the green light include Pearl Mosque in Dubai, Saadiyat Grove in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah Floating Theater.

Downtown Circle

World Islands

The World Islands have been years in the making, so we were excited when (parts of it) opened up to visitors. We checked into Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, which was the first upscale resort on the archipelago. Plus, Heart of Europe's first hotel, Côte d'Azur Monaco, opened its doors and captured people's imagination. The island brings the food, drink and even the weather of the cooler continent. It even includes a Raining Street, the world's first-ever climate-controlled area that will rain on demand. 

Anantara World Islands