Going Global

Heading to Dubai for the kingdom of bling’s shopping festival? Hit the malls by all means but be sure to get yourself to Global Village, where you can shop and eat your way around the world…

Shopping is big business in Dubai – as much a daily event as dinner and there’s a plethora of super-sized shiny malls all dedicated to the joys of retail therapy. Take your pick from Festival City, the Mall of the Emirates (which boasts the surreal Ski Dubai) and Dubai Mall (the largest in the world with its Olympic sized ice rink and huge aquarium), to name but a few.

But while these glittering malls are some of the best in the world (and you might not even have to leave your hotel to reach them since many malls and hotels are connected), there’s more – so much more – to Dubai’s shopping scene than merely it’s mega malls. For a quintessential Arabian experience seek out the souks, but for a wonderfully quirky shopping experience, a trip to the kitsch Global Village (which coincides with the annual Dubai Shopping Festival) can’t be beaten… Now in its 15th year, Global Village ­– a treasure trove of shopping pavilions brimming with goods from all corners of the globe – continues to go from strength to strength with seemingly every country and continent desperate to be a part of the action. It’s a little off the beaten track over in Dubailand, but don’t let the distance put you off; taxis are cheap and plentiful as is parking, and any extra effort involved in getting to Global Village will be repaid…

As you stand in front of the main gates, the trick lies in deciding where to start shopping – there’s simply too much…We found ourselves gravitating towards the China pavilion. All the eyes of the world are on China right but if you can’t travel to the Middle Kingdom, rest assured that the China pavilion at Global Village more than captures the essence of the Orient. It’s a lively, buzzy place to stroll overflowing with Chinese medicines and beautiful silks. We bought several yards of gorgeous green fabric (a snip at Dhs10 per yard) from Mary which we plan on taking to the tailors and having a dress made for March’s Dubai World Cup. Mary’s work ethic is admirable – she splits her time between Global Village and her store in Satwa (a suburb in Dubai) – and hasn’t been home for nine years. We couldn’t help but wonder if Mary would recognize her homeland in the Chinese government’s ruthless drive to modernize the country and become the largest economy in the world. Talk to Mary and the other Chinese sellers though, and you won’t find anyone who’d say anything bad about Beijing. Mary’s at Global Village of course to make money, but by being part of the China pavilion, she’s simultaneously reconnecting with her roots.

After exiting China, we headed for the India pavilion. On entry, you’ll feel as though you have stumbled onto the back streets of Mumbai. An Aladdin’s cave of delights, the stalls here are dripping with vivid bags, cushion covers, and wall hangings, statues of Indian gods, CDs and DVDs so cheap it won’t hurt to take a chance on them – plus a staggering array of fabrics and silks. Mairaj, a vendor from New Delhi, informed us that saris are a popular buy – especially silk saris – and also recommended that we purchase a pashmina or two to help combat the arctic air conditioning found in most of Dubai’s lavish hotels. The rainbow-colored selection on offer – guaranteed to lift even the darkest of spirits – is soft, silky and the best bit – blissfully affordable. But it was the sparkly Aladdinesque slippers that exerted the strongest fascination for us…

Other pavilions to watch out for include Sri Lanka for spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and black pepper. Such spices are integral to Sri Lanka cuisine and Ayurvedic tradition and are sold out of large open sacks which makes for sensory overload. The Philippines pavilion is a good bet for pretty shell chandeliers, while those looking for leather goods should make for Nepal. We rifled through Mohammad Irshad’s collection of leather belts, bags, stylish jackets and wallets like feral beasts before snapping up a dapper black wallet for less than the price of a cup of coffee in Starbucks. The Pakistan pavilion is also the place to head if you’re in the market for a carpet. We learned from Mohammed that the more knots per square inch, the greater the quality while the more intricate the detail, the more expensive it will be.

To read the second part of this story, be sure to log on to the CD-Traveller website tomorrow.

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