Shopaholic’s paradise

Thursday, 27 January 2011 00:29 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Dubai Shopping Festival starts with glamour and discounts

Text and pix by Cheranka Mendis from Dubai

 There is no better time to travel to Dubai than in these early months when the some of world’s biggest brands snip off their price tags and enter into a discount price range. Offering choices that are otherwise unimaginable Dubai Shopping Festival is a carnival of fashion, fun and entertainment.

 Termed as one of world’s famous shopping fête, Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is a month long affair which brings together shopaholics from all over the world and has everything that is often found in our imagination in actuality. The Festival started on January 20 and would wrap up its show on February 20. Living up to its reputation as the shopping capital of emirates and perhaps one of the best and the popular ones world over, Dubai had pulled off all stops to create a month of festivity which does not only include high fashion and colour. Entertainment which included international artists such as Macy Gray, kid’s entertainment zones, art festivities and even sport events makes the DSF a family fun zone and not just a shopping event.

 Since its inception in February 1996, the Festival has lured in millions of bargain hunters and shopping fanatics from across the continent. Whether your eyes and hands are aching to snatch away the best buys in clothing, accessories, makeup or electrical items- the Festival has it all; and the best part- it comes with discounts which starts from 20 per cent and goes up to 70 per cent. Such superlative price tags make it all the more hard to press that stop button once you hit the shops.

 Unlike what is known as a shopping festival in Sri Lanka, where shop/company owners buy a stall at either BMICH or SLECC to show off their products, in Dubai the Festival is all about reduced pricing at their malls. The malls itself are luxurious affairs with leather or cushioned seating, colorful walls and plush carpeting making shopping all the more fun.

 It is said that the event has attracted over 40million shopaholics from all over and according to the festival being a “classy and relevant show of extravagance and style, DSF records a staggering amount of money spent every year. This time around the number was a jaw-dropping Dh. 9.8 billion.” Beside the shopping carnival atmosphere, the event also means heightening of night life when malls and other shopping centers keep their doors open till very late in the night. It was said that like every year, this year too gifts worth million of Dirhams will be given out daily as prizes for raffle draws and competitions.

 Theme for the year was said to be ‘One World One family;’ as such the festival also served as a platform for different countries to put up their pavilions.

 Stopping by at four of the most popular shopping destinations- three in Dubai and one in Sharjah, a few of the lucky Sri Lankans hosted by the international airline of United Arab Emirates on a short trip got to see it all- the lights, the glamour and an unending thirst for fashion and shopping. Unlike most countries in Emirates, in Dubai one does not always see women covered from head to toe. Fashion is followed like a religion and with Dubai opening its doors to international names such as Dior, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Elie Saab, Woolworths, Mark & Spencer, Forever 21 and The Body Shop it is only a question what to chose from and what to wear. Even the ladies adorned in Abaaya’s wear the most expensive and stylish outfits underneath their clothing and spares no thought in purchasing the most meager piece of clothing.

 The list of goods that can be purchased at these malls are as follows: watches, perfumes, cars, jewelry, furniture, gift items, spices (imported), electronic items, DVD’s and CD’s,  kitchenware, garments, accessories, shoes, essential items, toys and the list goes on, and on.

 The Dubai Mall

 The malls are all lit up, just like the rest of the city and are visited by young and old. Holding the distinction of being the world’s largest mall and the region’s premier shopping and entertainment destination, The Dubai Mall is home to just about every major fashion brand in the world.

 Paying homage to haute couture, the mall offers the best of the best. More than 1200 retail stores are hosted at the Mall which is also the entrance to purchase tickets to tour around world tallest tower Burj Kalifa. It is easy to get lost in this humongous shopping space but easier to lose your money on some of the most expensive pieces of the fashion world.

 Deira City Centre

 Next stop was the Deira City Centre, a place where great bargains was just a few feet away. A multi-faceted complex, it has over 370 stores and attracts over 19 million visitors a year, making it one of Dubai’s top attractions. Deira City Centre is home to 120 fashion outlets and prides itself as featuring mid-market popular fashion with well-known retailers such as Zara, Debenhams, New Look, H&M, Gap, Woolworths and Splash.

 The Centre has a wide variety of retailers, including its anchor stores Carrefour, Virgin Megastore, Paris Gallery, Sun & Sand Sports, Magrudy’s and the newly opened Iconic. In addition to offering a great shopping experience, the Centre features City Centre Hotel and Residence; CineStar, an 11-screen multiplex cinema, Magic Planet family entertainment centre, a Textile Court, a specialized Jewellery Court, as well as a food court and several international restaurants and cafes; dedicated tourist services; and a host of electronic stores on the ground floor that all add to the overall atmosphere.

  Here you could purchase jeans for Dhs 20 (approximately Rs. 600), dresses for Dhs 30 and accessories for Dhs 5. Perfumes especially at Carrefour was a good buy with many brands available with a starting price of Dhs. 30. Almost all shops had 70 per cent discounts and therefore the above mentioned prices. It is also a greats spot to observe people as many interesting people walk by.

 Al Karama

Going to a more low grade shopping destination, Al Karama- a more neater, cleaner and an organized Pettah like place is known in Dubai as a centre for cheap furniture and address to covert sale of counterfeit branded goods such as handbags and watches. It is famous for its bargaining shopping. Goods that were claimed to be “original Dior” came down from Dhs. 150 to Dhs. 80 but at Deira City Centre could be purchased for Dhs. 30. Antiques, gift wear items such as miniature Shisha pipes, miniature replicas of Burj Kalifa, carved wood furniture boxes are all up for bargaining. The most bizarre clothing is also found in these places.

 Sharjah City Centre

 Sharjah City Centre, located in the heart of Sharjah, along the main Al Wahda Street is yet another discount price mall. The mall houses 117 shops offering the ultimate value oriented retail mix. The mall is now home to an additional 22 new stores including internationally renowned anchor stores New Look, H&M and Borders. Other leisure and entertainment facilities in the mall include a Magic Planet and 16 fast food outlets, positioning Sharjah City Centre as one of the dominant Centre’s in the Emirate for value shopping.

 What you find at Deira City Centre could be found even cheaper here. Open till 1.00 am on Weekends (Friday and Saturday) Sharjah City Centre is an exciting shopping destination. Excitement is doubled with the excitement of frantic shoppers pulling all things into their carts and wheeling off in every directions. Children cry, mothers buy while fathers stand in silence carrying all the bags.

 Regrets and summer surprises

 It is an exciting affair, this whole business of Dubai Shopping Festival. People travel down especially to partake in the mad buying spree and as some locals mentioned some even save money to spend at leisure over “this month of madness.” The whole of Dubai comes in line for the Dubai Shopping Festival which contributes largely to the tourism sector of the country. The Festival is a must-see for anyone in the Gulf region during January and February who enjoys a spot of retail therapy. However if you are heading that way please do take a stack of money for if not you will only come back with more regret than anything.

 But for those who may find themselves absolutely busy, the magazines and websites mentions that a mini version of the Dubai Shopping Festival, named Dubai Summer Surprises, held between June 22 and July 31 this year. This is a mini version of the DSF and is the biggest summer event in the Middle East, attracting approximately 2.2 million visitors.