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Global Village: Travel the world and never leave Dubai.

Summary: Global Village facelift big hit with visitors and vendors in 20th season

Global Village this year features a 40-turnstile Gate of the World entrance and a free mini-train shuttle Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News Zahira Sanchez at her stall in the Spain pavilion. Image Credit: Derek Baldwin/Gulf News Derek Baldwin, Chief Reporter

Dubai: Jules Verne, French author of the classic novel Around the World in 80 Days , would feel right at home at the new and improved Global Village now in its 20th season.

A few steps inside the renovated outdoor family theme park skirting the sandy edges of Dubai city, visitors are following in Verne's spirit of global travel and adventure, embarking on their own mini circumvention of the globe.

And in far less time.

With another banner year for the Dubai Shopping Festival now under way, in only a matter of hours whole families are navigating on foot the maze of neon lights adorning 32 pavilions representing 75 countries through a cultural wonderland of icons from the United States of America to Japan.

Glowing under fiery sunsets, this year's major facelift of pavilion facades serves as a dramatic backdrop to the human crush of curious visitors taking in the multicultural celebration of sights and sounds mirroring Dubai's pluralistic harmony.

An evening at #GlobalVillage: http://bit.ly/1PvbPut#GNReaderPicturesPosted by Gulf News on Monday, January 25, 2016

Ahmad Hussain Bin Eisa, CEO at Global Village, said the major facelift of the theme park this year is part and parcel of a new five-year strategic development plan to entice more tourists to Dubai.

"Global Village is the ideal destination for both families and individuals from the UAE as well as from across the Middle East," he said. "There will be a number of new and exciting surprises throughout the season as well as high-quality entertainment facilities that will guarantee an unforgettable experience and attract our guests to return again and again.''

For the first time, Japan and Russia pavilions are on offer and Palestine and Indonesia have returned to the park.

In addition to creating a new 40-turnstile Gate of the World entrance, a free mini-train shuttle service and a more efficient ticketing system, Global Village caretakers added a 22,000 square-metre grassy leisure area inside the large circular design of the park.

Far East aficionados, meanwhile, are flocking to Ginza Kojimaya stall, one of the hottest souvenir boutiques this year at the new Japan pavilion which houses 55 exhibitors.

Japanese Azusa Yasui said a steady stream of visitors are snapping up everything from traditional folding fans emblazoned with Mount Fuji to flower-patterned kimonos.

Samurai curiosities are a big hit, said Yasui, with sandals and Samurai swords drawing lots of interest.

An entire Ninja costume plus accessories can cost hobbyists and enthusiasts up to Dh1,500.

"One customer told me being a Ninja is very expensive," quipped Yasui, 23, adding many of her customers hail from Saudi Arabia and are fascinated with Japanese culture.

At the nearby Spain pavilion, Gulf News found Zahira Sanchez, 29, at a traditional food stall being heavily patronised by foodies with a proclivity for the country's famous olives, cheese and roasted peppers.

A big hit this year, said Sanchez, is a halal sparkling beverage called Lussory which is infused with 24-karat gold and is all the rage in Dubai priced at Dh420 for a 750ml bottle. The beverage is made in Spain.

"Manchego cheese has been very popular, it is lactose-free and very popular in Spain. Our organic vinegar and roasted peppers are also selling well," Sanchez said. "Our customers are telling us they are very happy to find products made in their home country."

The stalls are only a small taste of the unique items available across the kaleidoscope of cultural items as evidenced by souvenir clothing, shoes, jewellery and mementoes on display for passers-by through the UK, India and Germany pavilions adjacent to the crescent-shaped canal filled with electric abras.

The atmosphere didn't disappoint Dr Tareq Mehmouot from Lahore, Pakistan, as he strolled through the crowds with family in tow.

On a Dubai holiday with a group of 40 tourists from his home country, Mehmouot said Global Village came highly recommended by friends back home.

"Many friends told me before I came to Dubai that I must visit Global Village. They were correct. There is so much here in this place. We bought perfume from UAE, some clothes from Turkey and we tried turkey and ice cream from Turkey as well. We are very pleased."

Vladimir Shchuka, of Belarus, wore a big grin pushing a baby stroller with wife Elena by his side and said he was impressed after exiting the African pavilion with its many handmade crafts and collectibles.

"The African pavilion was very interesting and we enjoyed it very much. This is our first time here and we would like to come back and see many more," he said.

Dubai couple Mohammad Habamia, of Syria, and Rita Miloudi said they come to Global Village often and lauded park managers for the new look of the place.

"Visiting Global Village is a good way to break the routine and just get out and enjoy ourselves," said Miloudi. "It's a much quicker way to travel to so many countries and not have to leave Dubai."

Box 1

By the numbers

Global Village operates until April 9 and is open Wednesdays through Saturday from 4pm-12pm and on Thursday, Friday and public holidays from 4pm-1am.

Entry tickets are Dh15 for adults.

Admission is free for children under three years of age and for persons with disabilities as well as seniors over 65.

For details, log on to globalvillage.ae

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jan 27, 2016
Words:963
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