Shopping festival: Dubai's crowning glory!

Critics complain about the millions who descend on Dubai, but nothing beats standing at the Burj with a new purchase.

Sophia Ahmed January 21, 2011
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 necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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