Partial to a bargain and a devoted attendee of the January sales, my interest was piqued when I heard about Dubai Shopping Festival. Living in Abu Dhabi, just one hour from Dubai with the kids enjoying yet another day off school (this time for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday), I caved and decided to make the journey along the Sheikh Maktoum / Zayed highway, purely for research purposes you understand and visit The Dubai Mall, home of the festival.
I have a certain routine when it comes to January sales, in past years I would ensure to be in town early, get parked in Merchants Quay, visit Brown Thomas and hope that I don’t have to supplement my fifty euro voucher with too much just to buy a top. Next stop was always “Next” for the kids, to assuage the guilt before I would browse at the other six worthwhile shops closely followed by the conclusion that Penneys and Dunnes were better anyway. A three euro cup of coffee and a ten euro slice of quiche with seasonal salad (two lettuce leaves and a slice of onion) later and the pleasure of receiving my car back after its two euro twenty an hour stay, I part with the eleven euro and go home where I finish off the day with a lie about the price of the top in Brown Thomas and a tut about the price of parking.
Aware that when taking my routine to Dubai it may have to alter slightly, first change was that I would park outside Dubai and take the metro in, part of my cunning plan to save on the parking fees and the frustration of getting lost. I decided to take the Metro at IBN Battuta, just outside Dubai, I looked for the annoying little meter that only takes coins but there was none, parking at the metro was evidently free, this was a first. There was no need to be slightly fearful for my new black jeans on public transport, when the Dubai metro proved cleaner than my car. Running with an efficiency that I’m not used to, the world’s longest, fully automatic, driverless train, delivered me straight to the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall stop without as much as an annoying ticket inspection, a smelly carriage or a chewing gummed heel, all firsts for me when on public transport.
Disembarking the train at the stop I pulled my cardigan tightly around me, bracing myself for cool January air, which recorded a new low of 18°c, brrrr. However the snap didn’t snap as there was a kilometer long glass tunnel complete with moving walkways to transport me and wallet into the heart of the mall or city as it may also be referred to. Over one million square metres in size and the chosen destination for fifty seven million visitors last year, the Dubai Mall doesn’t only have an atmosphere, it has a heartbeat. Reported to have more visitors per annum that New York City, Central Park or Niagara Falls, the Dubai Mall is built for footfall with scores of restaurants, facilities and nightly entertainment provided each night of the month long shopping festival, which started on 3rd January and ends on 3rd February. With every shop from Van Cleef to Claires and Armani to H&M there is something for everyone as the prices are slashed across the board. It is widely agreed that it costs money just to stand still in Dubai but I can vouch that comfortable shoes are more essential that a bulky wallet. With several areas within the mall to relax and enjoy the atmosphere; be it the aquarium that boasts the world’s largest acrylic panel which is 33m wide, 8 m high and .75 m thick, or the ambience of the inbuilt gold souk at basement level, the Dubai mall has more to offer than just 1,200 shops.
Physically spent but financially sound, I left the mall and used my return ticket to get the metro back to the car. However the experience didn’t stop there as it happened that some new seasons fashion were being launched on the metro and the models strutted their stuff through the carriages! All that for the cost of a return ticket on the metro of 11 dirham, that’s right, exactly the cost of an hours parking in Cork!