Where you can shop till you drop

Ramesh & Asha Seth take a trip to the Dubai Shopping Festival, a consumers’ paradise

The gold souk and magnificent raffle prizes draw large crowds from the world over.
Attractions of the Dubai Shopping Festival: The gold souk and magnificent raffle prizes draw large crowds from the world over. — Photos by the writers

When recently my wife and I visited Dubai for an 11-day-tour, it was my first visit. My wife, who had visited Dubai earlier in 1974, was surprised to see the change. It was not the Dubai that she had visited more than 30 years earlier. It was as if Aladdin’s genii had set to work and created an all together a new Dubai; a modern and vibrant Dubai.

From a sleepy desert post largely dominated by the smugglers Dubai has gone legit to become one of the big business centres of the world. It is the foresight and sheer will of the ruling al Maktoum family that has wrought this miracle in an inhospitable desert. Wherever you look in Dubai, you see the rapid pace of construction. It is estimated that 30 per cent of the world’s construction cranes are operating in Dubai alone.

Having first put Dubai on the world’s business map, the next aim of the government is to make it a preferred tourist destination of the world. To that end, the government has promoted many schemes. One of them is the annual Dubai Shopping Festival -DSF- which is drawing ever- increasing number of shoppers from all over the region. The Indian complement is pretty large.

This idea first germinated in 1996 and was put into practice. In barely ten years it has become an annual event which people look forward to. Starting from December 20, last year, this time it will be a 45-day affair as against 30 days earlier. By the time DSF ends on February 2, this year, more than 3.5 million visitors would have participated in this year’s DSF.

About 30 per cent of all the annual retail sales take place during the DSF. This year, the early indication was that the sales were 25 per cent higher than last year. However, gold which used to be once the prime attraction of the visitors from India has now lost much of its attraction. In 2006, the increase in gold sale was only 6 per cent.

With import duties on goods only nominal and there being no VAT or sales tax, no multiple taxation on goods, shopping in Dubai is always economical. No wonder, it is fast becoming a regional shopping centre. The entire trade thrives less on trade margin and more on turnover. Since the competition is stiff, one can be sure of the quality of the goods. Incidentally, liquor is the cheapest in the world in Dubai airport’s duty- free shopping area.

The shops remain open till 11 pm. Only then comes the turn of dining at the equally exotic restaurants. And Dubai is not only shopping but is also a foodie’s delight. One can find ethnic foods from all over the world in Dubai. We tasted Iranian, Arab (from Lebanon mainly) and Thai cuisines all next to each other. A number of India restaurants and mithaiwallas have opened their branches in Dubai to cater to the tourist traffic.

"DSF has contributed immensely to the retail markets and the different economic sectors and continues to do so since it attracts a large number of visitors from all over the world thereby increasing the number of shoppers in the country," said Laila Suhail, Chief Marketing Officer of Dubai Shopping Festival.

Every year, Dubai Shopping Festival lives up to its promise of staging the most exciting activities for the whole family inspired by the theme One World, One Family, One Festival. As universal brotherhood, happiness, excitement, joy and adventure became the signature trademarks of Dubai Shopping Festival, the Festival itself became a tribute to the inherent ambition and strength of the people of the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai is a safe and friendly city. Crime is rare and you can see tourists and residents walking around the city at midnight.

For those who live for the adrenaline rush, Dubai has facilities for Bungee Jumping, Skydiving, Paragliding, Moto-cross, Water Sports, Mountaineering, and more. And there is indoor skiing as well in The Mall of the Emirates

Along the lines of the stature that Dubai has achieved with its clarity of vision, innovation, initiative and drive, the Festival was shaped under the committed leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

One of the prime attritions of SDF is the raffles which give away big prizes like Lexus cars. Any purchaser anywhere gets free raffle vouchers which entitle the person to the raffles prize in the three main raffle draws are rewarding shoppers with incredible prizes everyday. These prizes include luxury cars like Lexus also.

The Lexus draw is giving away prizes this DSF amounting to AED 25 million, the highest in any single draw held in the history of the shopping festival. Two stunning Lexus cars and AED 100,000 are given away daily to one lucky winner. The draw became even more appealing with the additional fortnightly draws being held during the 45-day long shopping festival. The last fortnightly draw held on the 4th of January witnessed 15 winners take home AED 100,000 each amounting to a total of Dhirham 1.5 million.

South Asians accounted for the majority of the winners in the fortnightly draw with nine winners from India, and one winner each from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, highlighting the popularity of the Lexus draws amongst them.