Cancelled events include a special concert by Egyptian singer Mohammed Munir set for Cairo's Opera House, and a variety performance due to be broadcast on state television.

Business as usual

However, most private hotels and clubs appeared to be going ahead with their events.

At one of the two Four Seasons hotels in Cairo, guests paying $271 (1,500 Egyptian pounds) per person could be treated to a five-course celebratory dinner set to classical music.

"We are not canceling any reservations," said Ahmed Ghany, the restaurant manager at Four Seasons, where a special dinner will be taking place. He added that none of their guests had cancelled.

"The situation is far from us," he said.

At Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt's main holiday resort on the Sinai Peninsula, security was heightened, but most clubs and restaurants appeared to still be in festive mood.

Ranya Barakat, who owns two newspapers that cover the Sinai peninsula, said: "In Sharm everything is still going on as planned."

However, she said there was more security than normal in the area, and the authorities appeared to be checking every car that did not have Sinai plates.

"There is very, very high security," she added.

The elite Red Sea resort of El Gouna, where many of Egypt's upper class will celebrate the new year, organisers said a 1,500-person sea-side party in a marquee will go ahead.

Puzzle in Dubai

In the Gulf tourism hub of Dubai, the emirate's ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum decreed that several planned concerts should not go ahead.

People staged anti-Israel rallies in different Arab states to protest Gaza attacks [AFP]
He gave the order "as a sign of solidarity with the brotherly Palestinian people and because of the death and destruction perpetrated on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli war machine," his office said.

International Arab stars including Mohammed Abdu of Saudi  Arabia, Iraq's Kazem al-Saher, Nancy Ajram from Lebanon and Tunisian singer Latifa had all been due to perform in Dubai.

The manager of Dubai's four-star downtown Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa initially said there would be no music or dancing to ring in the New Year, but that the hotel's restaurants and bars would stay open.

Later he said there were indications that only outdoor events were banned.

Officials at other hotels said they were not yet able to comment on the effect of the ban.

New Year's Eve is one of the busiest times of the year for Dubai's hotel-based bars and restaurants, which typically sell lavish dinner packages.

A concert by Colombian singer Shakira in the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi is scheduled to go ahead.

In Jordan several five-star hotels, shopping centres and restaurants in the capital, Amman, and other cities including the ancient Nabataean city of Petra and the Red Sea port of Aqaba, cancelled New Year celebrations.

Michel Nazzal, head of the Jordanian Hotel Association, said in a statement: "The decision to cancel the celebrations has been taken in solidarity with our people in Gaza."

Newspapers urged Jordanians to join a candlelight vigil in central Amman at midnight instead to express their support for  Gaza.

The Syrian artists' union said in a statement that festivities would not take place, including a New Year's Eve concert by singer Sabah Fakhri in a Damascus hotel.

Hotels in Beirut, the capital of neighbouring Lebanon, told AFP that their events would go ahead as planned.