First look at the new Global Village

Hurrah! Global Village returns to Dubai again. We pay a visit to this year's arena of bargain-hunting and check out the early highlights.

Global Village has always been like a kind of Narnia to me. A place I heard people mention while recounting tales of getting lost in its maze of markets, people and rides for hours – or days – at a time, emerging triumphant, holding a tub of all-healing Fujairah honey aloft. It opened in November, earlier than usual, and is set to run until February 21 2009. This year, I resolved to look less blank when people spoke of it. This year, I went in search of the reality behind the myth they call ‘Global Village’.

The scene – something akin to Ibn Batutta mall, but outside and with water running through it. Villagers are mainly UAE nationals (in a twist on global population stats). Countries and continents are symbolised by ‘traditional’ architecture. Egypt – you guessed it – was shaped like a pyramid. We raided it.

One of the Village’s draws this year are the ‘fearless’ Jet Ski riders. While we were there, they had a race and did some synchronised dances, ‘just like the fish.’ Unfortunately, they were too quick for this picture – although the international symmetry of the spectators is very ‘Global Village’.

For a real adrenalin blast we walked over to the shiny lights of the amusement park. Despite looking a bit feeble at first (Crazy Mouse? What kind of a name is that for a gut-churning ’coaster?), rides are surprisingly challenging. At least, if you’re in your late twenties. Especially the Dark Ride Horror House.

China’s facade is so impressive we almost mistook it for the real thing. Unfortunately, the standard of products inside was not quite as impressive – but everything (Bob Marley and 50 Cent tees included) is, after all, made in China. One find was this genuine bone china tea set.

Boycotting the Guinness World Record tent (we didn’t fancy stretching our neck flesh, like the man phictured on the exterior), we located, instead, to Europe. All of it, in one relatively tiny building. What did we find inside? Turkish goods.

The rather ominous towers of Pakistan’s contribution to Global Village conceals a Ravi’s inside – adding another of every-one’s favourite independent restaurant to the city for a few months. Reason in itself to walk the globe.

With sore legs, churning stomachs and an overwhelming sense of confusion, we departed. But only after locating the mythical Fujairah honey pot.

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