Shopping festival: Dubai’s crowning glory!

Published: January 21, 2011

People from all over the world flock to Dubai for the annual shopping festival

Yes, it’s almost that time of the year. There is a nip in the air, the winter rains are here and kids wear sweaters in the evening. Every day the Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk is full of people warming themselves over a cup of coffee.

When friends start e-mailing to coordinate plans with me, their ‘Dubai friend’ I know the season has changed from winter to shopping. I have played host to many friends for the three years that I have lived in Dubai,  and have finalised  plans with yet another friend for the upcoming shopping season. This is perhaps the most enjoyable and disturbing element of living in Dubai.

For city lovers, especially someone who loves the teeming millions of Karachi, the bursting Monday morning London Underground or the NYC night subways, Dubai brings out its fanciest outfits in the Dubai Shopping Festival. For the tourist, it’s the sparkles inside the Dubai Mall, or the flirtatious frivolity of standing by the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building and watching the tallest dancing fountain that does it. Most are bedazzled by the sheer magnanimity of it all, the grand displays and the carnival fun that the DSF stands for. A few are in plain disdain – but they are few.

For us Dubai walas, the Arab speaking and the desis, the Europeans and the now mostly Filipino workforce, it is an opportunity to showcase the city we call home.  Famous cities are synonymous for motor shows, aviations shows, sports, historical monuments, and trade shows. Dubai’s leading brand identity is its travel and leisure industry with the DSF its crowning glory. The residential workforce is largely employed in this mother or other related industries. The strength of the DSF marks the health of all economic indicators of Dubai, and hence the economic security of its residents. We take pride in the infrastructural developments of the Dubai metro, the motorways, healthcare and academic cities and the millions of opportunities they offer.

The DSF is made special by Barney or SpongeBob Square Pants, the Wiggles and other countless musicals, art shows, Holy Quran recitals, horse racing, concerts and free jazz shows. We have enjoyed witnessing trapeze artists from China, circus shows from Central Asia, orators from Pakistan and art from Turkey in the last DSF. And of course, the shopping is what makes it all worthwhile. Residents wait for the sales to stock up for the year on clothes and fashion accessories as well. There are prizes worth millions to be won – something that makes the shopping more attractive.

There are critics amongst the residents who complain about the millions who descend into Dubai with poor knowledge of local customs and traditions, who increase the traffic problem and create unnecessary shortage of public space. However, these voices are getting softer as public infrastructure has improved over time.

For me, a house guest is a welcome addition to break the silent routine of work and house. In a country where you have a few relatives and everyone is so caught up with the work and home routine, a house guest gives me a breather and I relish the chance to spend time with people I love.

Guests, at home and in the city,  are welcome.


Sophia Ahmed

An accountant based in Dubai who has been associated with Acumen Fund, Aga Khan University Education Foundation and Micro Drip

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed

    I’m sorry but was this just a PR attempt on behalf of Dubai Tourism Board?? Didn’t make much sense….Recommend

  • Nadir El-Edroos

    A shopping spree may be its crowning glory…but forced labour and bonded labour is its crowning shame…if only the people who build all the gawdy malls could enjoy it…perhaps you should extend a welcome to them? given that you are a Dubai wala and they are members of your community

  • Advice for Life

    Its the best festival. Every thing is shown under discounted price but in actual that discounted price is way higher than the normal ones.Recommend

  • parvez

    Full marks to the people responsible for the Dubai phenomena and let us not forget Abu Dhabi. Recommend

  • Amer

    I have been living in Dubai for 2 years now and this festival is a joke to say the least! The “discounted” prices are anything but discounted. It’s an artificial sale and nothing is so fabulous even the fireworks seem to be all of the same color. I looked at the fireworks at Dubai Creek Park yesterday on my way back from work, nothing out of the ordinary, I would say. But I do like Global Village and a few of the performances there, the ones with the singing kids and jumping basket ball players are all ordinary but the ones from Russia with live fire shows are real fun. Recommend

  • Fizza

    Are the web-editors of ET on leave? Recommend

  • Question: What kind of an article is this?

    Answer: Just some shameless capitalistic promotion activity for Dubai. Recommend

  • gul

    For us Pakistanis its a great break….not having to travel too far to get to the shine and glitter missing in our lives in Pakistan.Our lives these days is just full of despair,bullets and corruption.
    DSF YOU ARE DEFINITELY WANTED………… have fun if not to spend!Recommend

  • Noor-ul-ain Hanif

    Dubai rocks!Recommend

  • Maria

    @gul: I don’t know which Pakistanis find Dubai or the UAE a great break. Certainly not the teeming masses who toil in the labour market there or even the smug white collar workers who ignore the subtle discrimination they suffer. Most educated Pakistanis see the UAE for what it is: A shallow nouveau riche region with no future. There are plenty of poor people in South Asia and the developing world who marvel at the sight of big buildings and western stores but Pakistanis who are more worldly see beyond this facade. As for prices in Dubai, let me tell you, you are better off shopping in London or New York. I stopped off in Abu Dhabi the last time on the way to London and I found prices were worse than Europe.Recommend