A leader, his dream and a pinch of magic: Dubai Shopping Festival


By Linda George, Deputy Web Editor  www.gulfnews.com

Dubai: It could not have kicked off without a vision.

    * Dubai Carnivals will hit the malls and streets in town with hundreds of performers on an all-out display.     * Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
* Dubai Carnivals will hit the malls and streets in town with hundreds of performers on an all-out display. * Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

A leader had a dream in 1996 to reinforce Dubai’s position as a major retail hub in the region.

The dream materialised into a festival — that event turned into a billion-dollar shopping extravaganza.

The man behind it all was His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and his vision today is called the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF).

It’s time to whip out those credit cards and shopping bags as Dubai is gearing up to celebrate a period of non-stop festivities for 32 days from January 20 to February 20, 2011. And its all about – shopping, winning and family entertainment.

As Laila Suhail, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, says, “that small idea of Shaikh Mohammad’s has now grown into a brand”.

Suhail is in the forefront of those who helped catapult the DSF and Dubai Summer Surprises brands to greater heights.

Initially, DSF was conceived as a pure retail event, the primary aim of which was to revitalise the retail trade in Dubai.

Now, it also benefits the tourism industry in Dubai.

Suhail credits Dubai’s fine leader for the passion behind the event.

“The success of the event can be credited to Shaikh Mohammad. He is always part of it all — right from the beginning to the end — even with each details such as marketing, the opening ceremony, the activities, the events and promotions.”

Dubai is known around the world as a shopper’s paradise, but the DSF season is when the city lays down the red carpet with over 6,000 retail outlets and 50 malls offering everything imaginable — from clothing to gold, perfumes, haute couture, cars, electronics and handicraft.

Suhail says: “The dream turned stronger over the years — the government and the private sector have joined hands to create the most popular shopping event in the Middle East and the world, in the last 16 years”.

Organisers and retailers think that festival is a tribute to the inherent ambition and strength of the people of the UAE. Local and multinational brands such as Visa, Pepsi and the Emirates Airlines have partnered with DSF over the years.

Every year, the DSF lives up to its promise of staging the most exciting activities for the whole family inspired by the theme One World, One Family, One Festival.

In the words of Ebrahim Saleh, Festivals Coordinator General and Deputy CEO of Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment: “The sixteenth edition is important to us as it crowns 15 years of achievements ever since DSF was launched in 1996. Looking back, DSF has welcomed over 40 million visitors, recorded a consumer spending of Dh84 billion, and given away prizes worth Dh1.35 billion.

These figures are testament to the success of DSF and our commitment to offering the region’s best in shopping, winning, and family entertainment”.

What would such a grand event be without some razzle dazzle?

Grand opening

A grand opening ceremony will take place simultaneously at the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Creek Park, opposite the Heritage Village in Shindagha, Global Village, and the Dubai Outlet Mall.

Today, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the event is the tourism sector. Most hotels are offering special deals during the period and airlines flying out of Dubai offer discounted air fares.

If you win, you win big at the shopping festival.

“Bag of Fortune”, the 32-day mega campaign starting from today, offers shoppers a chance to win 21 kilogrammes of gold worth Dh3.5 million through raffle draws. You can also win Dh3 million in cash through a special “Scratch n Win” promotion if you shop for diamonds, pearls and watches instead.

As Anan Fakhr Al Deen, DGJG Chairman, said: “Dubai Shopping Festival has always been a peak season for Dubai’s jewellery trade. Our promotion this year is expected to boost sales by at least 50 per cent”.

The Lexus Mega Raffle gives you a chance to take home a Lexus LX570 and Dh100,000 in cash every day for 32 days.

The Nissan Grand Raffle is giving away shoppers the chance to drive home a Nissan SUV every day. On purchases from Enoc and Eppco outlets and participating shopping malls, shoppers will enter a daily draw to win one SUV from among the Patrol, Armada, X-Trail, Murano, Xterra, Pathfinder, and Qashqai.

For families and children, The Dubai Dolphinarium is putting up an exclusive show this season. Wafi plans to catch up with the Sound and Light Show, inspired by the same in Egypt.

To add music to the shopping madness, some of the best-known voices will take the stage during this coming month. Amy Winehouse (February 11), Farell Williams and N.E.R.D (February 10), Tamer Housni (February 3), Faris Karam and Shireen Abdulwahhab (January 28), Rabeh Saker (February 10), Wael Kfoury and Ellisa (February 11), Fadel Shaker and Haifa Wehbe (February 18), and Indian singers K.K. and Sunidhi Chauhan (January 28) are some of the stars performing during the festival. The living legend of Persian music – Ustad Mohammad Reza Shajarian, is set to perform on February 17.

For the youth seeking an adrenaline rush, the DSF boasts of the Middle East’s only dedicated Bike Festival that showcases the very latest in sport bikes, cruisers, off road and all terrain vehicles, apparel, accessories, custom-designed bikes and motorcycle-related products

All-out display

Dubai Carnivals will hit the malls and streets in town with hundreds of performers on an all-out display by jugglers, stilt walkers, unicyclists, and musicians to showcase the festive feeling of DSF across the city.

Fashion enthusiasts will surely have a passion for Creations, which is aimed at launching the region’s emerging fashion talents.

Spread across thousands of square metres, the Carpet Oasis features products from master rug makers in Iran, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

If you love the written word, Kavi Sammelan and Mushaira 2011 would be a must visit. It’s a gathering of renowned poets from all across the Indian sub-continent. The event is popular among millions of Hindi and Urdu-speaking audiences across the globe.

Prominent streets such as Al Rigga, Al Seef and the Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence will join in the DSF festivities and host fun fair areas for families and children. These venues will also have restaurants, kiosks, and performers to add to the street experience.

For the organisers it means months of hard work and planning. But as Laila said: “It’s an honour. I have been part of this ever since its inception. That’s 16 years of my life. And I am proud to be part of such a reputed brand”.

People who have toiled for years to make this event a success say each year, say each promotion is memorable.

“There are far too many memorable incidents to count,” Suhail says, adding that: “Once I was waiting by a street after a carnival passed by. A man holding his elderly mother, came up to me and said, ‘You have really made us so happy’. That is what keeps us going.”

To each one who comes, DSF will be a super-special experience – an opportunity to be a part of that magic we Dubai residents call ‘Sihr Dubai’.

Just be there.

Down the memory lane

  • 1996: Dubai Shopping Festival’s inaugural year attracted more than 1.6 million visitors and generated revenue of more than Dh2 billion.
  • 1997: Sales figures jumped to Dh2.79 billion and Global Village made its debut at the creek.
  • 1998: DSF introduced “Children of the World Meet in Dubai” in 1998, which attracted many families to Dubai. Two high-profile sporting events made their debut — the ATP Dubai Tennis Open and the European PGA’s Dubai Desert Classic.
  • 1999: The festival’s theme was changed to “The Biggest Family Gathering of the Millennium”. Sales increased 8.92 per cent from the previous year.
  • 2000: European visitors began to fly to the city, highlighting DSF’s global appeal. This was the year when DSF formally introduced its theme — “One World. One Family. One Festival” — it has been used ever since. The festival that year attracted a record 2.5 million visitors.
  • 2001: Thirty-one Rolls Royce cars on raffle raised the bar higher for big promotions in the region, not to mention the $100,000 prize in the ‘To Mother With Love’ promotion. Hotel revenues rose from Dh450 million to Dh480 million.
  • 2002: The Global Village was moved to Dubai Festival City. 2.68 million visitors — five per cent more than the previous year — ensured yet another successful DSF. It was prizes galore: in addition to the usual 31 Nissan Patrols, two Lexus cars, Dh200,000 in cash and 41 kilogrammes of gold were also given away.
  • 2003: Several new tourism and retail concepts were introduced such as the Night Souq and the Desert Camp.
  • 2004: New concept of Dubai Fashion 2004 featured top fashion houses like Dior, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy and Emanuel Ungaro. The festival registered 3.1 million visitors and the spending touched Dh5.80 billion.
  • 2005: Global Village was moved to a 17.4 square feet site in Dubailand. And for this 10th special edition, mind-boggling raffle promotions such as the Lexus Mega Raffle gave away two top-of-the-range cars plus Dh100,000 per day.
  • 2006: Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) was cancelled due to the sudden demise of Shaikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, then Ruler of Dubai.
  • 2006-2007: This was a combined 11th and 12th edition. Commencing on December 20, 2006, the double edition was also the longest, spanning 45 days, ending on February 2, 2007.
  • 2008: Another successful year registered 3.2 million visitors. The consumer spending was Dh10.2 billion.
  • This Shopping Festival generated impressive visitor and spending figures in its 14th edition. Around 3.35 million visitors spent approximately Dh9.8 billion in 32 days. Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a law creating Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment that replaced the Dubai Shopping Festival Office.
  • 2010: The Global Village enjoyed another successful year as it received up to 155,000 visitors in a day. The government funding and private sector sponsorship amounted to Dh65 million.

— Compiled from Gulf News archives

Top events during DSF 2011

  • DSF Desert Camp: January 20-February 20 at Al Warqa’a Area 4.
  • Carnivals: January 20-February 20 at the streets of Dubai.
  • Night Souq: January 20-February 20 at Al Rigga.
  • Jazz World: January 20-January 28 at The Walk at JBR.
  • Heritage Events: January 20-February 20 at Shindagha Heritage and Diving Village.
  • Global Village: January 20-February 28 at Emirates Road.
  • Global Village is Dubai’s most popular outdoor cultural entertainment and shopping venue, welcoming millions of guests over the last 14 years. It’s the place to watch spectacular live performances, taste an array of authentic cuisines, purchase genuine merchandise from around the globe or spend a whole evening on thrilling rides.
  • Floating Restaurants: January 20-February 20 at Al Seef.
  • Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival 2011: January 20. – February 18 at Dubai Media City (Feb 8 – 15 and Feb 16- 18), The Walk at JBR (Jan 20-28).
  • Carpet Oasis: January 20-February 20 at Airport Expo Dubai, West Hall.