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Dubai Shopping Festivals

The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) (www.mydsf.com) began in 1996 as an effort to boost retail sales in what was then a slow period at the beginning of the year. The plan worked. Today, more than three million annual visitors come for DSF, as it's known locally, which takes place for one month between late January and February. DSF has evolved into an international tourist extravaganza in which thousands of Dubai retail stores participate with impressive bargains and store giveaways under the theme "One World, One Family, One Festival." Everything is on sale at discount prices - gold, jewelry, perfume, haute couture, electronics, handicrafts, textiles, you name it - with the most important savings being tax-free shopping. DSF coincides with some of the biggest sporting and special events of the year.

One of the major attractions during DSF is Global Village (tel. 04-362-4114; www.globalvillage.ae), a large outdoor complex in Dubailand where food, fashion, and live entertainment from across the world are showcased in dozens of international pavilions with life-size replicas of famous monuments. World cuisine, cultural performances, and carnival rides are offered alongside merchandise from over 45 countries. Global Village is open from late November to late February Saturday to Wednesday from 4pm to midnight and Thursday and Friday from 4pm to 1am. ATMs are scattered throughout the event site. Another favorite attraction during DSF is the Night Souk, which takes place on the streets of Al Riqqa, Al Muraqabbat, and Al Seef, where vendors stay open past midnight, the smell of authentic Arabian food fills the air, and street performers dance into the night.

Raffles of anything from luxury cars to pots of gold and large cash prizes happen throughout the festival - you'll find these ongoing at Global Village, the major malls, and Dubai airport. The entertainment extends to children's events, fashion shows, film festivals, music events, and nighttime light shows and fireworks displays. In years past there have been balloon festivals, performances by Cirque du Soleil, and other cultural events all planned around DSF. There's even a water and light show at the Creek Park. The Dubai World Cup, the richest horse race in the world, also takes place during the Shopping Festival. Some hotels and airlines, including Emirates, offer discounted rates during DSF, adding further appeal to visiting during this time.

A second, smaller shopping festival happens in summer called Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS). Created to lure visitors to Dubai during the unbelievably hot summer, it lasts for 10 weeks between June and August, includes impressive shopping discounts, and heavily reduced hotel rates. Since kids are out of school, DSS has a particular emphasis on family events, including children's entertainment and educational activities.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.