Featured Image: Moroccan mosaic lanterns
How many cultures can you expect to see for 15 AED? (~4 USD or ~290 INR). It depends, of course. But if you are in Dubai in the beginning of 2020, I would say 78 to be exact. Spread across an area of 17,200,000 sq ft, this conglomeration of multiple cultures is certain to fancy your imagination!
Named appropriately as “global village”, this entertainment venue offers products, shows and cuisine from all around the world. Amongst the 25 pavilions and 3,500 shopping outlets, where there’s something for everyone; here are a few experiences that we managed to capture while trying to not to blink our eyes as much as we possibly can, in the few hours we got on a fresh evening in the desert city.
Resisting the live shows and appetising smells that hover over the village, we decided to try out the Turkish pavilion first. The colourful Moroccan mosaic lanterns displayed in an outlet were alluring, however we had to cut through the huge crowd in front of an ice cream shop to get there. Curious, we stayed back at this particular shop to see what the big deal is about – the ice cream sellers pretending to hand over ice creams cones, and then stealing those off people’s hands ending up pranking them. It was good fun to join the lot that were enjoying the speed and dexterity with which these sellers/ pranksters worked; and of course the tricks. 🙂 (Apparently it is more of a tradition in Turkey to trick people while serving ice creams!)
The lantern shop was quite a sight to behold in the dusk of Dubai winter! Spoilt for choice, I had no idea what to ask for; until a group of people swarmed past me to look for stuff. It looked as if everyone else was in a hurry to buy except for me who was enjoying the sight, but then I had no idea what was coming further nor how vast the village is! After shopping for a table lantern, and a couple of other curios, we decided to move on.
Neatly arranged bamboo baskets carrying spices, frankincense (the smoke of the same filled the air), dried and preserved fruits and nuts; it felt like we have been catapulted to a Mediterranean market in Aladdin’s times!
UAE pavilion was next. There was no way we could leave without visiting the UAE pavilion when in UAE. Amidst the similar sight of frankincense smoke, myriad kinds of preserved olives and dates stole the show. Saffrons looked rich and vivid; to say the least. The Arabic perfumes were everywhere, and the testers they were handing out were perhaps good enough to fill the whole village with amazing fragrance! The quadrangle they created amidst the pavilion simulated a typical Arab centre ground, where people could spend leisurely evenings chatting, smoking sheesha ( the molasses-based tobacco concoction smoked in a hookah ) and above all, having a good time together.
Living in Sydney where we co-habit with people of Lebanese origin, I was quite keen to check out the pavilion for Lebanon. Apart from what we saw in the Turkish pavilion, the jewellery was a huge attraction here. Just the right bling; neither tacky nor subtle! And the fabrics on display was to die for, for sure! There were little photo booths which offered to take our pictures in the traditional clothing, but the clothes that they had on offer didn’t look washed anytime recently so we decided to give it a pass.
It was time for a quick walk through the European pavilion; where the nature of the curios sold were much different – more subtle, less ornate and things of great taste. Through European pavilion, we could make our way to the South American one. The little souvenirs in Peruvian costumes were very fascinating, but we had to really try not to cheat and buy those souvenirs which would be more appropriate if we travelled to Peru and got those from there.
Afghani pavilion was my next target, being a huge fan of Afghani jewellery. The amount of nuts and dried fruits sold there was just too impressive – it appeared you could just live your life, feeding on the dried and preserved food from here!
Well, that appeared to stimulate the secretion of gastric juices; and we decided to give in. We opted to try out the most recommended Arabic delicacy in the global village – Luqaimat, which are like honey balls. Made with flour, these round, crispy and soft balls served with date syrup were made live in the pavilion; right in front of our eyes. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take the pictures as a gesture of respect to the ladies who were preparing it.
Full o’ sugar, we were ready for our next expedition!
It was hard to ignore the dazzling Bollywood performances in the centre stage and I must admit that it did engage our young travel companions (read children :)) who are between the age of 2-11. They were happy to just sit down and enjoy the show munching on the food, which otherwise would have created a mayhem if all they had to do there was to walk through the shops which we adults were busy doing – no wonder they call the village a total family entertainer! And not to forget the games and rides for the young and the young at heart!
We couldn’t resist visiting the Indian pavilion; even though I am a person of Indian origin, and my assumption was that there wouldn’t be many things that could potentially surprise me. But I was proved wrong this time around; and was very happy for it to be so! The rich diversity of India was clearly evident there, where they had something to represent pretty much all the states of India!
Azerbaijan was another pavilion we visited. Totally unexpected, we ended up shopping leather goods instead of jewellery from the outlets there; thanks to a nice gentleman of a shop keeper!
China was enticing, but the pavilion had too many shops that sold cheap toys and other products just like what you would find in the dollar shops all around the world – which didn’t quite reflect on the rich Chinese tradition; which was slightly disappointing.
It was only after passing a super-busy food alley that you could get to the highly recommended African pavilion; and it was obvious as to why it is highly recommended. Pretty much everything was available there – from eco friendly bags, to curios to trinkets to wigs to wooden masks to jewellery; and I had the best of times grabbing a variety of knick knacks from there! You name it, they have it in very reasonable prices! There were even processed pumpkin shells painted in gorgeous colours; which were enticing but thought we will let it go given how strict the Australian border force is, about what you can bring into the country.
It was time for another snack, and Turkish kunafa was the chosen one this time. Cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup and with a dough base is something to die for with the right balance of sweetness and crispiness! Yum!
We had to squish in some time to enjoy the 9 pm fireworks, the water fountains and the fabulous light-ups; all too much to take in within a few hours of time from dusk to the night!
There were so many more pavilions to visit, but the night was not that young unfortunately! It is no surprise that the village attracts an average of 5 million visitors every year within the duration of 6 cooler months from October to April.
Even when pressed for time, we just couldn’t leave the venue without trying out Dubai’s freshest pomegranate juice, peeled and juiced at the stalls within the venue. Or the tempting Turkish coffee, sold by the men dressed in traditional Turkish attire carrying Turkish coffee flasks!
Eventually, leave the place we had to, relishing the gem of an experience we had in one evening; and struggling to carry all the goods we had gathered (un)knowingly while browsing the pavilions; to come back another day for sure!