When word reached the Getaway
office that Dubai had an annual month-long shopping festival, there was no prize to guess who started packing her bags. Getaway
's resident shopper Catriona Rowntree had glazed eyes when she thought about the huge discounts on offer in the tax-free country. It has the same effect on millions of others seeking retail therapy.
There are daily car raffles, nightly fireworks, laser shows, street performances, concerts, cultural events and international fashion shows. Carpet Oasis has thousands of fabulous carpets from around the world and if you are tempted, vendors can turn your purchase into a very portable small package.
Shops open at 10am and dressed comfortably, armed with a currency converter, map and flexible budget, Catriona's first stop was the world's biggest shopping mall.
This one opened in 2008 and with 1200 outlets is the ultimate in retail. Name a major fashion brand and you can be sure they have a swanky store there. The world's largest indoor gold souk has 220 gold and jewellery retailers, all promising unbeatable prices.
Retailers have in-store specials, discounts and promotions. There are holidays to be won and a magical fountain show every 20 minutes.
For those not all that keen on shopping, the Mall has an Olympic-sized skating rink and an aquarium with a 180-degree walkthrough tunnel for viewing the 33,000 living sea creatures.
A family entertainment theme includes KidZania, a children's "edutainment" concept and a mammoth Sega indoor theme park with 150 games and a 22-screen cinema.
The Mall of the Emirates
With the motto "shopping is just the beginning", this is 223,000 square metres of leisure, entertainment and shopping.
It features 472 international brands including fashion, lifestyle, sports, electronics and home furnishing stores. Shoppers flock to the city's largest Carrefour, part of the French hypermarket group. Also there are the famous British stores: Harvey Nichols, Asprey and Debenhams.
Other attractions are the Magic Planet family entertainment area, a 14-screen multiplex cinema, 22,500 square metres of snow skiing and the five-star Kempinski Hotel. The Mall has a 500 seat DUCTAC community theatre, arts centre and 70 restaurants and coffee shops.
As if that's not enough, a half-billion dirham extension will be completed by the end of this year.
A good tip from Catriona is to ask expats or flight crew for tips. That's how she found Karama, a residential district in the older part of Dubai.
Karama is home to Dubai's Indian, Pakistani and Filipino residents and buzzes day and night. Terraced shops stretch down the long main street and do a roaring trade in fake labels. There are sunglasses, handbags, watches, clothing and you need to use your best bargaining skills.
Other major shopping areas are Al Faheidi Road, Al Rigga Road, Al Satwa's, Al Dhiyafah Road and Beniyas Square. Soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of traditional souks is what the adventure is all about.
Catriona's two best tips are pack light when you leave home so you have plenty of space in your bag and bargain like there's no tomorrow it's expected of you!
Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has a six-hour Dubai Shopping Experience tour including return transfers between any hotel and the Emirates and Dubai Malls for just $84 per person. It runs year-round. The Shopping Festival runs between January 28 and February 28.
Emirates has flights to Dubai from:
- Perth $1701
- Melbourne and Adelaide $1703
- Sydney $1723
- Brisbane $1723
These fares are available only online to the first 100 people who book.
Prices correct at July 22, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633 or 1300 661 666
ax: (02) 9313 4475
Mall of the Emirates
Dubai Shopping Festival
Visas: Visas are not required for entry into Dubai but passports must be valid for at least six months.
Electricity: Plugs are British with three rectangular prongs forming a triangle.
Time zone: GMT +4.
Currency: The UAE dirham.
International dialling code: + 971.