What started out in 1997 as little more than a small market alongside the Dubai Creek, has grown into one of the emirate’s largest annual attractions. More than five million people visited last year, and the village (though it’s bigger than any village we’ve ever seen) has morphed from market to a global-themed part-funfair, part-cultural festival and part-market. Whether you’ve been before or are looking to make your debut, here’s what you need to know about its 21st season.
1 New attractions
The overall format of Global Village remains the same: an al fresco theme park with various zones based around different countries. This year, however, there are a few additions which make for a more enjoyable experience. The Cultural Square is inspired by the history and culture of Arabia. The new Cultural Gate welcomes guests into the Village, while the new Village Boulevard makes the stroll to the main attraction from parking more pleasant than in previous years.
2 New countries and pavilions
More than 70 countries are represented with themed stalls, shows, presentations and attractions. This year, for the first time, a Far East Pavilion plays host to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia. Romania, Serbia and Ukraine are now represented and Jordan returns. Hurrah for Jordan!
3 More countries means more culture
The appeal of this low-key theme park is that it is truly global. Cultural performances at Global Village include one of the largest dance tours in the world, Irish dance show Spirit of the Dance. It has been seen by more than 30 million people and combines the folk charm of Irish dancing with touches of Latino forms such as
the tango, flamenco and salsa. Other dance shows include Merchants of Bollywood and Turkey’s classical Pasha.
4 Big stage shows await
At Global Village you’re never far from entertainment. The big stage events, however, are what you need to make a beeline for. The Main Cultural Stage has a concert every Friday at 9pm. Over the course of the 159-day opening period, you’ll be able to catch performances from the likes of Nancy Ajram, Atif Aslam and Cheb Khalid. At other times, the entertainment will include circus-style performances, dances and movie scenes played out on a revolving 3D stage.
5 Globo is back again
Festival mascot Globo is back again. Children can see him (or her?) perform on stage, or get up-close and personal with him and his bat and kangaroo friends. There will also be a live Angry Birds stage show and a performance based around India’s favourite cartoon Chhota Bheem.
6 More than a hundred places to eat
Trendier spots make boastful claims about their pop-up foodie credentials, but the truth is Global Village has been doing it for decades. This year there are more than 120 themed kiosks offering street food from around the world. Authentic foodie experiences from represented nations include Spanish churros, Algerian couscous, Turkish baked potatoes and much more besides. You will also find around 20 restaurants ranging from a cowboy-style steakhouse, a wok in a box Chinese and a few well-known fast food chains.
7 Thrills just got serious
The stunt-filled Speed, Chase, Action! is just one of several adrenaline-pumping shows introduced for this season. It takes place in a 900-capacity stunt area as a thrilling extravaganza of high-speed driving, flame effects and more. Other custom shows are Movies Live (a tribute to the best-loved cinematic genres), circus-themed Park Life and urban dance show City Jam. The quality of entertainment versus the price of an entry ticket make Global Village one of the best-value family days out in Dubai.
8 Shop the world without leaving the city
Shopping, obviously, plays a big part in Global Village and this year the pavilions have all had new façades, complete with decorative landmarks representing their home nation. Handicrafts, nick-nacks, accessories, clothing, food and furniture are all available. Yemeni daggers, Palestinian kofeya, Thai fruits, Egyptian dresses – Global Village has it all, and the range is impressive with plenty you won’t find in malls. In fact, a trip could easily sort you out with gifts for arty friends and quirky home décor for a few years to come.
9 Fairground fantasy time
Fully-stocked funfair attraction Fantasy Island returns this year with more than 50 games and amusements, including adventurous rides with bold names like Speed Wave, Sling Shot and Sky Coaster. For younger kids, there are the more sedentary Inflatable Land and Jungle River. This year, the organisers have included even more aimed at younger children, too.
10 You’re going to see juggling
For starters, there is a revamped Roman Amphitheatre this year with a circus show and kids’ workshops on ball spinning, stilt walking, juggling and more big-top basics. Kids can even get up on stage to show off their skills. If that doesn’t appeal, then there are plenty of street performers wandering throughout the crowds. Oh, and a robot – yes, a robot – is ready to mingle.
Dhs15. Sat-Wed 4pm-midnight; Thu-Fri 4pm-1am. Global Village, Exit 37, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road and Emirates Road, www.globalvillage.ae (04 362 4114).
In Numbers Global Village
The number of visitors in millions in 2016.
Number of countries represented in the pavilions.
Food outlets, including 120 kiosks, 19 restaurants and more.
Seats in the new custom-built stunt zone.