DUBAI TILL YOU DROP
IMAGINE SPENDING THE morning bargaining for spices in a historic Arabian souk, and the afternoon exploring posh, air-conditioned Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall as you seek out the latest designer handbag or luxury watch. Or maybe you want to take a break from your shopping marathon to go skiing down a snowy mountain in Ski Dubai.
Welcome to Dubai, where all these scenarios are possible. The futuristic city is not only known for its spectacular buildings, but also as a shopping heaven. With over 95 shopping malls, Dubai is the A to Z of retail. From Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales, Galleries Lafayette, Fortnum and Mason to Marks and Spencer, virtually every global brand is on sale here, alongside a collection of home-grown boutiques and labels. According to a CBRE (the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm based in Los Angeles) report in 2014, Dubai ranks second in the world among cities boasting the highest number of retailers.
“Dubai is a one-stop destination, offering shoppers with tailor-made option,” says Director of Frontier Market Dubai Tourism, Jessie Ling. “In one trip, shoppers could look up at the world’s tallest building, ski down a snowy mountain in the middle of the desert, skydive above a man-made island, swim with sharks in the world’s largest mall, marvel at sparkling jewels in the souks and feel the breeze from a traditional dhow cruise—all in a single trip.”
One of the many reasons why shoppers and fashionistas flock the largest and populous city in the United Arab Emirates is the month-long Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). “This annual festival was started in 1994 and is the largest of its kind in the Middle East that attracts millions of local, regional and global visitors,” she explains. “It is meant for shopaholics who love to bargain and buy stuff. In conclusion it is a retail therapy. During the festival, all of the malls and souks in the city offer discount price. You can find whatever you need, from clothes, accessories, toys and even furniture.”
This year, the 23rd Dubai Shopping Festival will start on December 26, 2017 to January 28, 2018. The month-long shopping extravaganza feature 200 celebrities and influencers, 4,000 participating retailers, 5,000 retail promotions and AED 100 million in prizes to be won.
“For travellers who want to experience DSF for the first time, I’d like to share some advice,”
she says. “First, make sure you stay at a hotel near the mall. Second, get up early and arrive at 10 am, so it won’t be too crowded. It’s all about the early bird catching the worm. The last is to make sure you set your itinerary right, because we have a lot of malls to explore.”
So where bargain hunters should start their shopping spree? The first destination and also a must-visit is the world’s largest shopping mall, The Dubai Mall. Spread over 12 million sq ft, this mall welcomed 80 million visitors in 2015, which beats the number of visitors who went to New York’s Times Square.
“In December, the Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall will add new and personalised flagship stores of the world’s most renowned brands, with the first phase of the expansion adding 1 million sq ft of new space,” says Ling. Flagship stores include Cartier, Chanel, Chopard, Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef & Arpels and Christian Louboutin. “Also, there will be a wide new range of F&B additions along Burj Lake and overlooking The Dubai Fountain.”
The most interesting part of the Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall is it has The Lounge. The exclusive venue is located on the R-level and features unparalleled panoramic views of Dubai Fountain and the world’s tallest building
Burj Khalifa. The Lounge allows shoppers to unwind at the foyer between shopping trips, to catch up with work, or to spend quality time with business partners and friends. “You can get fashion advices from fashion experts and a butler service to carry your shopping bags,” adds Ling.
To gain access to The Lounge, shoppers should join The List –the mall’s premier loyalty programme. To become The List, there are three simply steps: present receipts of AED 50,000 spent to The Lounge reception (all spend must occur within one month), complete and submit the application form and you’re done.
Other malls to explore are Mall of the Emirates, which houses an indoor ski slope and an aquarium; the themed sections of Ibn Battuta Mall, such as Andalucia, China and Egypt; explore the pyramids when visiting the Egyptian-themed Wafi Mall; wander through an Italian village at Mercato Mall and visit the largest Chinese trading hub outside of China at Dragon Mart. For factory outlet lovers, there is Dubai Outlet Mall which housed 240 stores with over 1,200 brands. Items from well-known brand such as Burberry, Guess and DKNY are 30-90 percent off.
For the Arabian shopping experience, head your way to the souks. Both Souq Al Bahar and the Madinat Souq are modern recreations of these bazaars oozing charm and atmosphere steps away from five-star hotels and restaurants; or journey back in time and visit the historical covered markets that have flanked Dubai’s Creek for hundreds of years. Hunt out that precise shade of blue in the Textile Souq; breathe in the aromas of saffron and incense as you wander through the lanes of the Spice Souq; and be dazzled by displays of glittering gold and diamonds in the renowned Gold Souq.
Last but not least, head your way to Global Village, where more than 65 countries come together in 37 pavilions to showcase their indigenous products. Open only in winter and spring, shoppers can buy honey from Yemen, carpets from Iran, wooden pots from Africa and dried fruits from Thailand. Shopping has never been more fun.