Picture a theme park with a carnival atmosphere where you can have tonnes of fun, indulge in great food and shop from among a million collections.
Are you thinking... Disneyland? Amplify the ambience a 100 times, and you get Dubai Global Village 2019, which is something that you cannot miss visiting if you happen to be in the United Arab Emirates between now and April 4, 2020.
Spread over 395 acres, Global Village, for want of a better term, is a carnival on steroids. It has got all the trappings of a regular carnival — check for cotton candy, roasted corn on the cob, ferris wheels, stuntmen who fly off motorcycles amid blazing pyrotechniques, clowns, acrobats and, of course, gravity-defying rides that would make you bellow — but that is not all.
Expected to draw in as many as seven million visitors, the 24th iteration of Global Village also features extravagantly-decorated pavilions from countries around the globe. Here, you get to pick and purchase almost anything from traditional cuisine, colourful handicrafts (check out the hand-painted ceramics and carved metal knives on offer), to spices, embroidered silk and cotton, besides a mind-boggling array of dried fruits. There is also a museum featuring the best of the weirdest Ripley’s Believe It or Not! entries.
“We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that season 24 offers our millions of guests an entertaining ride with breathtaking shows and stunning new features,” says Bader Anwahi, CEO, Global Village.
A stupendous entry leads you in towards the world’s most iconic architectural marvels — there is the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, besides the Big Ben, a mini Burj Khalifa, Taj Mahal, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the vestiges of Colosseum among others.
Even the floating market from Thailand has been recreated — with vendors on boats selling everything from frozen mangoes to fried octopuses, while bobbing along blue-tiled canals. It is this attention to detail, and the scale in which these structures have been set up, which makes it hard to dismiss Global Village as just another fair with tasteless replicas.
The ninth heaven
The biggest draw, however, are the endless food options sourced from the globe.
Whether it is fried, roasted, grilled, cheesy or sugary, the distinct aroma will kick up your food cravings. Start with the free samples — like vinegar chips and salted almonds from Iran — and slowly work your way up to the main course.
“This year, there are 26 pavilions from different cultures, including Korea, Bosnia, Lebanon, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Japan and from the African countries,” adds Anwahi.
With 170 food stalls to choose from, we give the grilled Bosnian pita bread sandwiches a try. The serving comes with kebabs and a yoghurt dip.
Before long, we are head-deep into our plates, rolling up Italian spaghetti dunked in Parmesan cheese (and delicately flavoured with truffle oil), drowning crispy chicken nuggets in tangy BBQ sauce, biting into melt-in-your-mouth brisket sandwiches, and, of course, slicing through Turkish baked potatoes.
Speaking of Turkish, do not miss the ice cream vendors. You are going to want to whip your phones out for this one; you have seen the many hilariously entertaining tricks they play on their unsuspecting customers in those viral videos online.
The ice cream itself is velvety and rich — crushed pistachios on top add a traditional touch. You can also round off your meal with tea from Kenya, coffee from Spain, or a cold rose bud juice from Morocco, served by men in tasselled maroon caps from gold flasks.
As the night sky develops, luminescent pinks and purples form a silhouette around the replicas.
Around 9 pm, a fireworks display at Global Village lights up the sky, but it is far from over. In true Dubai style, the party goes on till 1 am, and the energy in the air remains electric all the way through.
Global Village is at Exit 37, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road. Open from 4 pm onwards on all days until April 4, 2020. For details, www.globalvillage.ae