Dubai’s Global Village ~ Where the World Comes Together

January 3rd, 2012

As an expat, one day I will eventually leave Dubai. One of the things I will miss the most will be the Global Village, a shopping extravaganza out in the desert with pavilions representing 26 different countries (mostly from the region) and two continents. The Global Village has both a global feel and a county fair feel. For me, it’s about the shopping—unique handmade global items—but also the multicultural entertainment and cheap street food.

Yes, it’s true: the Global Village has had its ups and downs. It originally started as a small fair on the Creek in 1997, lasting one month & launched with the Dubai Shopping Festival. (Now it’s a separate entity.) Then it moved. Then it moved again to its permanent location in Dubai Land out in the desert. After it expanded from one month to several, the quality sadly went down.

Now the Global Village is experiencing a comeback. With Saeed Ali Bin Reda in charge, the GV keeps getting better and better in terms of facilities, organization, quality of goods, and something new each year. (This year, it’s Tunisia and Spain and the dancing water fountain.)

Holly’s Guide to the Global Village

1. Go early. It opens at 4:00pm, so aim to arrive a little early. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater for those late winter evenings. Also, bring a large sturdy shopping bag to haul your goods. Expect to buy lots.

2. Get a map at the entrance and plan your strategy. For the most authentic experience, go to pavilions representing countries from the region. For starters, visit: Yemen, Palestine, Morocco, Africa, and Egypt. If you have the energy, visit India, the biggest pavilion of all.

3. Don’t plan to visit all the pavilions in one go. Be selective and take your time. Also, give yourself time for the multicultural entertainment and food from the region, such as this yummy kanafe (sweet Arabic cheese pastry).

Or these Africa dancers:

4. Keep an open mind. If the Egypt and Turkey pavilions were disappointing in past years, it doesn’t mean so this year. In fact, they are both quite fantastic this time around. Check out this Egyptian shop where I bought a hand-appliqued quilt.

5. If you don’t care for products made in China, do not visit the China pavilion.

6. Shop, shop, shop. Bring lots of cash, preferably in small bills. Also, bring your bank card as a backup in case you see something unexpectedly amazing. For example, check out these burka bracelets:

7. For objects with prices of more than twenty or thirty dirhams, it’s good to bargain—but do so with a smile.

8. In addition to trinkets, handmade items, carpets and textiles, think FOOD. Among the unique foodstuff on offer: coffee beans from Ethiopia, baklava from Turkey, saffron from Iran, zataar from Lebanon, olive oil from Palestine, tea from Morocco, and honey from Yemen. 

9. When the vendors hand out food samples, try them. This will provide sustenance for more shopping. One stroll through the Palestine pavilion can add up to a light meal. 

10. When you are totally exhausted and your feet hurt, it’s time to eat an actual meal. Have Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian “street food” and watch the world go by. You’ll see more locals here than almost anywhere. After a good rest, look at your map again and strategize your next round of shopping.

11. When you are dragging yourself out the gate at 11:00pm, don’t be surprised to see crowds of Emiratis streaming in.

Basic Facts

The Global Village runs from November 1st, 2011 to March 3rd, 2012.

Timings: Weekdays 4:00pm to midnight; Weekends (Thursday/Friday) 4:00pm to 1:00am

If you hate crowds, avoid the weekend and national holidays. Arrive super-early.

The Global Village is located in Dubai Land on Emirates Road.

You’ll find twenty-eight pavilions from around the world.

The Global Village has been running for 15 years from 1997.

In recent years, the Global Village received 4.5 million visitors per season.

In addition to the canal boat road, there are also amusement rides.

For details on specific pavilions, check out my posts: The Yemen Pavilion, The Iraq Pavilion, The Turkey Pavilion, The Africa Pavilion, The Palestine Pavilion, and The Egypt Pavilion.

What is your favorite aspect of the Global Village?

  1. January 3rd, 2012 at 01:00 | #1

    Beautiful photos and information about one of my favorite places in Dubai too. In fact, we were there yesterday on our third visit this year before dinner at the lovely Zaroob. You are right,one needs to visit at least half a dozen times to experience it all.Once I get back to blogging intend to write a post about it as well. My favorite aspect is the energitic vibe of the place as soon as you walk in… the vendors shouting out Karak (cardamon milk tea) and of course that intoxicating multiculturality of dances, merchandise and mostly people. Being a lover of all things African and Indian I loved those pavillions the most. I enjoyed the Emirati sweet dumplings, Morrocan Bastya pastry and roasted chestnuts:)

  2. Vickie Al hazineh
    January 3rd, 2012 at 01:05 | #2

    Well now that I am gone officially I do miss the Global village. I used to go every year! I miss the guy selling the cheese & eggplant together in Palestine…taste awesome. The pic above^. :)) And yes the yummy FRESH street food! Dubai is one the best places to eat food from all over the world. I have a beautiful Palestinian jacket i got there. And a shawl, too. If u ever leave u will miss a lot of things. Trust me :)))) Great pics Holly & article.

  3. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    January 3rd, 2012 at 02:32 | #3

    @Zvezdana Great descriptions!! You commented on some things I missed — yes, the vibe is awesome. You know, I think there is something for everyone out there. I got hungry reading your comment & thinking about the food. Time for another visit. :-)

  4. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    January 3rd, 2012 at 02:34 | #4

    @Vickie Al hazineh Thanks for stopping by, Vickie. I hope you visit Dubai soon & can enjoy its “special offerings” There are so many things to miss about this place…. Happy New Year to you!

  5. Deborah Mustafa
    January 3rd, 2012 at 09:52 | #5

    Salaam Holly,

    I love your depiction of Global Village. You make it seem so enticing ad if I was working with GV pr department I would hire you for sure!

    However, and unfortunately for me, I have not had great experiences there, and I also find the parking horrendous.

    What I and a few folks close to me struggle with is the “kitschy-tacky” amusement park nature of the place, which to me distracts from the “cultural authenticity”, not to mention everything sold there can virtually be bought at Karama and elsewhere for close to the same prices. The one place I have visited and found items that were priced fairly and also hard to find elsewhere was the Moroccan pavilion, where I could purchase precious Louisa leaves for my Moroccan mint tea, and also they sell a variety of tea glasses and pots that are better prices than most other places.

    But, hey, maybe I should give it a few more chances and if my experience changes I will be sure to let you know! Thanks for sharing. I love reading your blurbs in your blog.

    Warmly, Deborah

  6. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    January 3rd, 2012 at 19:12 | #6

    @Deborah Mustafa The Global Village is not for everyone. I have had some bad experiences there, too, but (for me) they are few compared to the good side that the GV offers.
    If you choose to give it another go, I suggest arriving before 4:00 so you can park next to the gate. Also, you’ll find lots of authentic items in the Africa, Yemen, Turkey, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Iran and Iraq pavilions. I guess it depends on what you are looking for, but we find many unique items. (hand-woven baskets, hand-carved bowls, hand-stitched textiles & countless unique food items…)
    Stay tuned to discover more!! :-)

  7. Lainey
    January 4th, 2012 at 02:46 | #7

    I had been waiting for this post.
    The photos are fab as I expected.
    Love your tips and glad I could visit with the ‘expert.’
    What a great memory of that evening.

  8. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    January 4th, 2012 at 06:59 | #8

    @Lainey Thank You, Lainey. I had so much fun with you, Dannielle & Sudha. You guys were the BEST Global Village companions & so patient with all my photo-taking! Come back to Dubai, Lainey, so we can do it again.

  9. Amanda
    January 24th, 2012 at 12:19 | #9

    Wow! That looks soooooooooooo COOL! We went to Dubai last May to visit my in-laws and I reaaaaaally wanted to go to an outdoor market like the ones pictured in this global village but they said there were none, but thiiiiiis is PERFECT I wish it was all year! Hoping to visit in the winter this year so hopefully I’ll get to goooo! I hope!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      January 25th, 2012 at 20:07 | #10

      Hi Amanda, Yes, the Global Village is a lot of fun–except I always spend too much money. It’s true that there are not exactly outdoor markets in Dubai, aside from the fish market and the fruit & vegetable market, but there are Souks. That is, neighborhoods with lots of little shops. The traditional souks are in the older neighborhoods near the Creek. My favorite souk is The Blue Souk in Sharjah (another emirate, bordering Dubai) where you can buy Arabic trinkets, antiques, textiles, brass items, Persian rugs, etc. BTW, I did a blog post about it: http://arabiczeal.com/trip-to-the-blue-souk-and-a-surprise/

  10. January 23rd, 2013 at 14:11 | #11

    Thanks SO much for this post!! I have had one short visit to GV two years ago, but am planning on going there today with my husband and mom (their first time!) and was looking for some guidance as it’s so big and we want to take advantage of our one touristy visit (my mom is visiting, we live in the area). Anyway, this is so helpful! I am definitely going to take her to these authentic areas, and avoid the China pavilion since we can find all that at Dragon Mart. :) Thanks again!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 6th, 2013 at 16:55 | #12

      Hi Katie, So glad it was useful information. I hope you had a wonderful time. I love the Global village. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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