Never is this emirate so shiny as it is during the annual Dubai Shopping Festival. Everything's been polished and the Strip is wearing its best lights as retailers and shoppers alike rock up to worship at this city's temples to consumerism.
And in a year when the world's economy lies comatose in intensive care, awaiting intravenous government bailouts and stimulus packages, a party at the shops is more important than ever. If anything can set us on the road to recovery again, the thinking goes, it is spending our way out of this mess, as the money makes its way around the economy into the pockets of suppliers, farmers, traders, entertainers and yes, even the governments.
Old-timers in the tourism industry will tell you that this city's modern success story – and economic diversification – began with its Fly Buy Dubai mantra (and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel). And as recently as 2006, the DSF contributed as much as eight per cent to the emirate's GDP. In the years following, record oil and property prices over-shadowed the retail sector, but post the shake-up in the real estate sector, it's only natural that businesses across the city should be salivating in anticipation of the DSF.
There are discounts to be had everywhere as retailers pull out all the stops. The Mall of the Emirates, for instance, is offering shoppers who drop Dh350 at its outlets over the period a chance to become a dirham millionaire.There are also cars aplenty to be won everyday – Lexus or Nissan, take your pick – and prizes of all kinds, including apartments and diamond jewellery.
That's all in addition to record discounts as high as 80 per cent at some retailers – although perhaps not at the level of the going-out-of-business sales some United Kingdom shops are seeing, or the $1 coffees that Starbucks is reportedly considering for its American stores.
But even if you're cutting back on your luxury purchases in a situation where cash seems to be the best asset to have, Dubai's malls have enough entertainment lined up – from the Chinese State Circus to Peruvian dancers – to make for some fun outings for the family. Our hotels, too, are now truly cheap enough to book into one for the weekend – if only perhaps to sleep off those massive Friday brunches, instead of heading down to the beach afterwards.
All of which is almost as good as an actual handout from the government to use down at the shops. Which in itself, of course, is rather unlikely here, given the Australian experience, where most citizens used at least a large portion of a pre-Christmas handout to pay down debt, while only using a small percentage towards festive season gifts.
I'm hoping, though, that Mohammed Al Shaya rolls out those $1 coffee at his Starbucks franchises here in Dubai. An Ethiopian Yirgacheffe at that price would be a bargain I'd line up for.
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