Life & Work

From desert safaris to skiing, the festival has so much variety that one is simply spoilt for choice


Dubai Shopping Festival. PHOTO | COURTESY | VISIT DUBAI

It is never too early in the year to start planning for your holiday and business travels, especially with the different festivals already kicking off in different parts of the world.

Before the holiday haze can settle, it is time to seek out business opportunities or probably indulge in some retail therapy at shopping festivals including the ongoing Dubai Shopping Festival, which began on January 1 and will run up to February 1.

The festival usually running in January is one of the popular attractions for Kenyans heading to the Middle Eastern city. This and the Johannesburg shopping festival are a must visit for anyone keen on getting the best deals from across the globe.

The month-long Dubai Shopping Festival has been organised annually for the last 20 years like clockwork  allowing visitors to enjoy bargains of up to 70 per cent from the over 6,000 participating shops and is the largest shopping and entertainment extravaganza in the Middle East.

Key attractions for shoppers have been the discounted jewellery, electronics as well as fashionable clothes and handbags with over 50 shopping malls and establishments to shop from.

Other attractions

The festival provides the perfect opportunity for business and leisure travellers to explore the beauty and opportunity that the United Arab Emirates has to offer apart from the adrenaline-charged shopping experience.

Do not fret over accommodation as there is a wide selection to pick from. Hotels here are available for the different price points, ranging from budget to seven star ones like the luxurious Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.

While sampling the Arabian cuisine and nightlife, make a point of visiting the fountain just outside the Dubai Mall during your evening strolls to witness the famous water shows that take place every 30 minutes.

You could also visit the aquarium and underwater zoo which gives you a scenic view of the diverse marine life without getting yourself wet. The walls and ceiling of the walk-through tunnel are made of glass giving you a 270 degrees view.

If you are a marine life enthusiast and can afford to spend a few more shillings for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, you could book the Underwater Suites at the five-star Atlantis hotel resort.

For $7,000 (Sh700,000) you get to spend the whole stay literally under water where you can actually immerse yourself in the bathrooms which have ceiling and floor views of the adjacent lagoon and the suite is large enough to accommodate two adults and two children.

The same hotel also has a variety of water slides and rides at the Aqua Venture water park for watersports lovers and the young-at-heart.

It is also hard to miss the 134-floor Burj Khalifa when you are in Dubai. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to marvel at the architecture as well as get a view of the whole city from the observation deck on the top floor.

You could also go on a desert safari in a 4×4 vehicle. These normally involve going to a camp within the desert where a variety of other activities take place like quad bike rides and camel rides. Don’t be shocked by the manoeuvres that the drivers pull on the sand dunes popularly referred to as dune-bashing.

You could also go skiing in Dubai at the indoor ski resort inside the Mall of Emirates which has a plane rink as well as jump slopes and other fun areas for both adults and children.

First time travel

For a first time traveller, you need to know that the city is a highly cultural place and while it attracts visitors from across the globe, they have strict adherence to their religious and cultural practices.

Public display of affection, while permissible for tourists during the beach or desert adventures may not be tolerated in most of the malls.

Other shop owners also prohibit the entry of certain pets like dogs into their premises due to their religious beliefs.

Most of the restrictive establishments will have polite notices for visitors at their entrances and it is only courteous for you to oblige.

Tour packages

Due to the popularity of Layali Dubai as the festival is called in Arabic, many local travel agents are coming up with great tour packages for Kenyans who wish to go to the festival.

Many of the companies are offering five-day packages in different hotels costing between $600 (Sh60,000) to $1,300 (Sh130,000) which includes the accommodation for four nights and return flight charges.

A week-long tourist visa into the country will cost you about $100 (Sh10,000) and most packages do not include this though travel agents can help you in processing the visa.

With just over two weeks to go before the end of the festival, you still have a chance to head out to Dubai. If not, then start planning for next year’s.