As prizes worth Dh100 million were handed out at this year's Dubai Shopping Festival, the lustre of gold and dune bashing SUVs were swapped for cash by many winners of the month-long festival's several raffle draws. Since its inception in 1996, DSF has given away over Dh1.2 billion in cash or kind and changed the lives of thousands of hopefuls.
Emirates Business caught up with a few of this year's lucky winners, who took the current global economic turmoil into account as they towed the line of repaying debts and buying houses for future investment, except for Holland's Poul Beusink, who splurged it on Dubai's nightlife. Here's what they had to say…
Rajesh Kumar, 27, Indian Storekeeper, Al Quoz Won: Nissan Murano
"I have been blessed. For the last three years, I have bought dozens of tickets for the Nissan and Lexus raffle draws. This year I bought my ticket from a petrol pump in Al Barsha. A few weeks later, when they called to tell me I had won the Murano I refused to believe them. I called back the next day and realised it was legit.
"I took the money, Dh102,000, instead of the car, which could not have come at better time. My sister is getting married in India and since I was already Dh55,000 in debt with the National Bank of Dubai and a further Dh7,000 in credit card debt, I was planning to approach a money lender.
"And then this came my way. I feel truly blessed and thank God for this kindness.
"I have already paid off my debt and sent the funds back home for my sister's wedding in Kerela."
Risgon Joseph, 37, Indian Sales officer, Ajman port Won: Nissan Pathfinder
"Since the start of DSF in 1996, I have dutifully bought a ticket every year. This year, I bought mine from the ENOC gas station on Emirates Road. The organisers called me for two days, but I somehow missed all their calls. When I finally drove into the petrol pump I saw my name on the board and realised I had won.
"I collected the cash equivalent of Dh94,000 instead of the car and have sent it to India to buy a house. I have decided to use the money as a down payment to invest in a house that I have been eyeing for a while. I have been in the UAE for 19 years and have a 10-month old son and intend to build this house for him, as his inheritance."
Dawood PC, 34, Indian Supermarket owner Won: AUS $100,000 (Dh236,000) (Lexus Mega Raffle)
"I have been in the UAE for 16 years and bought my first raffle ticket three years ago.
Since I didn't win that year, I decided never to try again. But this year, through sheer providence, I bought another ticket and luckily, I won. I couldn't believe my ears when they said I had won $100,000 Australian (Dh236,000). With the current economic turmoil, I have decided to invest all the money in my business and hope to expand further this year. Along with some partners, I own four supermarkets in Sharjah and Dubai and this will help take a bigger stake in the business."
Poul Beusink, 42, DuTch Superintendent, The Palm Deira Won: Damas 100g gold (Dh12,900)
"My friend, Andy Harold, and I went to Carrefour at Deira City Centre for grocery shopping one day and I decided to buy a raffle ticket. I've never believed in these draws, but Andy who was visiting thought it would be fun. So we bought a ticket and won. I've been in Dubai for a year and a half and have always wondered why so many people participate in these draws.
"Now I know the reason. Anyway, we sold the gold, and invested it in a small ring for my girlfriend Helen, and then spent the rest partying. I didn't go to any expensive places, because then it would've all been spent within the hour."
Lineesh Deviassy, 30 Executive, Jebel Ali Free Zone Won: $100,000 Canadian (Dh290,000) (Lexus Mega Raffle)
"I am a simple man who bought the ticket at Global Village as an investment.
"My friend Manoj and I each pooled Dh100 for the raffle ticket. Since this was the first time I had ever bought such a ticket, I honestly thought someone was pulling my leg when they called to say we had won the money.
"Since I am single, I have sent my share of the money to buy a house back home. Though people come here to work and save in order to buy a house in their home country and retire, I will not stop working here.
"I love my job and my life here, and while this makes things easier for me, I intend to work here for a very long time."