As the coronavirus has spread around the world, countries and events organisers have been compelled to take measures to stop the spread of the virus and protect their citizens.

While many flight routes have been suspended and borders closed, a growing number of major events expecting high attendance have also been cancelled or postponed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Middle East Eye took a look at some of the public events around the Middle East that have been affected:


Qatar International Maritime Defence Exhibition 

Qatar’s International Maritime Defence Exhibition, which was due to be held from 16-18 March, has been cancelled after consultations with public health officials and the government over the spread of the coronavirus.

Organisers said in a statement that they had carried out consultations and decided to cancel the event for the health and welfare of citizens and visitors.

Grand Prix, Qatar 

Qatar also announced that the Grand Prix would be cancelled because of travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Many of the participants at the event were due to come from Italy, which has been one of the worst affected countries in Europe.

The second race, scheduled for 22 March in Thailand, has also been postponed indefinitely.

Qatar has imposed a two-week blanket quarantine restriction on any passengers that have recently visited Italy since recording its first case of the coronavirus.

Ultra Festival, Abu Dhabi

The electronic music festival, which was due to take place in Abu Dhabi’s Du Arena on 5-6 March, has been cancelled. The event was highly anticipated with large numbers of people expected as it was the first Ultra event set to take place in the Middle East.

Dubai’s Music Bank concert, where a K-pop band was due to perform, has also been cancelled.

The event was set to be held at the 17,000-capacity Coca Cola Arena. The measures were taken to limit the spread of the virus and also due to travel restrictions and flight cancellations imposed by many countries.

Hindu Festival of Holi 2020, Dubai

The Hindu Holi Festival 2020, also known as the “Festival of Colours”, set to take place at Dubai’s Sports City on 6 March, has been called off. Organisers of the event said they regretted cancelling the event at such late notice.

“Due to circumstances outside of our control and our moral obligation towards the well-being of our guests, their families…we are compelled to announce this year’s edition of the carnival cancelled,” they said in a statement.


International Boat Show/International Superyacht Summit, Dubai

The United Arab Emirates has postponed all sporting events as a preventative measure.

The Dubai International Boat Show has been postponed until 24-28 November. The International Superyacht Summit, which was due to take place from 11-12 March in Dubai, has also been pushed back to November.

Art Dubai Fair, Dubai

Dubai’s flagship art fair Art Dubai has also been postponed. The event, originally set for 25-28 March, has been pushed back to an unspecified time.

Instead, organisers have planned a smaller fair for local and regional artists during the same dates, where exhibitions and talks will run, focusing on the local cultural community instead.

World Triathlon Series, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s opening round of the 2020 World Triathlon Series, which was due to take place this weekend, has been postponed to a later date.

The event was due to take place from 5-7 March on Yas Island, however, the organising committee is looking at future possible dates and locations to postpone the event on the recommendation of health officials. Over 300 athletes had planned to attend the sporting event.

International Book Fair, Abu Dhabi

The 30th edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which was due to take place from 15-21 April at the National Exhibition Centre, has been postponed. The event, which was moved back as a precautionary measure, will take place from 23-29 May.

Oil and Gas Conferences, Bahrain 

Bahrain has postponed two oil and gas conferences which were due to take place this month. Oil traders were due to meet at the annual Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference. However, they will not be able to meet due to travel restrictions.

Another energy conference, GEO 2020, which was due to be held from 16-19 March, has also been rescheduled for September. Senior oil officials and Gulf oil ministers were set to attend the conferences.

GCC Games, Kuwait

Kuwait’s GCC Games, which include football, volleyball, basketball, and swimming among other sports, have been postponed from April until December 2020.

The event, which is now in its third year, was due to take place between 3-14 April. The Kuwait Olympic Committee stated that the decision was taken with the aim of protecting the public interest and the safety of athletes, executives and technicians.

Red Sea International Film Festival, Saudi Arabia

Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival has postponed its inaugural event, which was originally due to start on 12 March and run until 21 March. The announcement was made on Tuesday, a day after the kingdom confirmed its first case of the disease after having already made the drastic move of barring all religious visitors for the Umrah pilgrimage.

The film festival organisers said they made the decision because the safety and wellbeing of guests, staff, and audiences were of “primary consideration”.

“It’s with feelings of deep sadness that we have had to take this tough decision,” they said in a statement.

The organisers said they would announce the new dates of the festival “as soon it was feasible”.

Petroleum and Energy Show, Oman

The Oman Petroleum and Energy Show (OPES), which was due to take place this month from 9-11 March, has been rescheduled. The event is one of the biggest oil and gas conferences in the region and will now be held from the 14-16 September.

The general manager of Omanexpo said that they took the decision after regular communication with Oman’s Ministry of Health.

“We must be conscious that many organisations within our community are currently facing difficulties travelling around the world. It is for these travel reasons that OPES will be postponed in 2020.”


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Egypt next week from 14-15 March, where he is expected to discuss strategic ties in the Middle East.

However, it is uncertain whether the visit will go ahead as it comes following the postponing of the India-EU summit that was due to take place on 13 March.

Egypt announced on Friday that 12 new cases of the coronavirus had been detected on a cruise ship in the southern tourist city of Luxor.

Middle East Eye


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