Why Dubai Shopping Festival is more than retail therapy for the emirate's residents

Ever since its first edition in 1996, DSF has been instrumental in bringing people and communities together


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 6 Jan 2023, 4:38 PM

Last updated: Fri 6 Jan 2023, 4:40 PM

The emirate of Dubai is buzzing with activities, colour and lights as the 28th edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) gets underway in the city. However, DSF is far beyond shopping and grabbing the best deals.

While for some longtime residents it evokes precious memories and nostalgia, for others the festival is the perfect opportunity to bring their family to the country. For residents and visitors alike, the event brings forth some of the best the city has to offer, including the mesmerising drone show at JBR.

Khaleej Times explores the different facets of Dubai during the DSF:


Longtime Dubai resident Sajna has a fond memory about the very first edition of DSF (pictured below). “In 1996, my family and I were attending the opening ceremony of the DSF near Gold Souq,” she said.

“While standing on the footpath, we saw the police clearing roads and diverting traffic. We stuck around to see who was coming and suddenly, when I turned, it was the then ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum walking along the footpath.”

For the Indian expat who arrived in the UAE in 1986, that moment remains imprinted in her mind. “Even while recalling it, I can remember the mixture of awe, shock and surprise. Along with Sheikh Maktoum was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”

She had only seen them in the newspapers and to see them so close was an "unforgettable moment in my life".

"My brother was visiting from India at the time, and he was surprised by how the rulers were so down to earth that they chose to come walking through the footpath rather than using the road," she remembers.

Sajna adds that back in the day, the look and feel of DSF was different.

For Naveeda Jukaku, DSF was an excuse to return to her family in Dubai when she was studying in India. “After schooling, I went to Bangalore for my college between 2000 and 2004,” she said.

Her cousin Halima recalls looking for activities in the newspaper. “My father would make us look up what activities were on, and we would go as a family to participate in it,” she said.

Dubai Lights

Dubai residents have been spotting interactive light art installations on display at various places around the city, including Citywalk and Dubai Design District. A part of DSF, the project brings together artists from all over the world to add a splash of colour to the city.

“Light art is understood by everyone,” said Felix Guttmann, the Chairman of Amsterdam Light Festival and Light Art Collection at the opening ceremony of Dubai Lights. “It is something that triggers, makes people think, makes people engage and makes people dream.”

Family bonding

For Jay Koganti, DSF is the perfect time for family bonding. When KT caught up with him, he was supervising his children and a friend’s daughter as they participated in a free pot painting activity at Al Seef. “I love DSF,” he said. “This time, we did face painting and are now colouring this pot. There is another activity after this. The kids are really enjoying themselves."

According to Jay, he brings his parents to visit him in Dubai during DSF. “Every year, they come during this time because there are so many activities and discounts,” he said. “Right now, my mother and wife have gone to the Gold Souq using the abra while I am here, entertaining the kids.”

There are several activities around the town during DSF for children. At the Coca Cola arena, Russian Olympic figure skating champions will glide effortlessly for the Sleeping Beauty: The Legend of the Two Kingdoms that will take place on 6-7 January.


The DSF also provides a platform to local talents. Tunes DXB takes place across 10 days at multiple locations in Dubai, including Bluewaters, Last Exit Al Khawaneej, Box Park, Hatta and Al Seef. This free festival focuses on giving a stage to local musical talents. Emirati electronic drummer Maitha Al Mansoori is among those who'd be performing.

Apart from this, there are several entertainment programmes are happening at multiple locations all across the city. For crowds gathered at the Al Seef area, the various performances added more beauty to their evening.



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