Carolynne Khairieh looked distraught as she stood in front of shelves filled with race cars at Toys R Us. Her 4-year-old son's special Christmas request, Disney Pixar's Lightning McQueen remote-controlled car, was out of stock.
The car seemed to be a popular hit with children, as it was racing off the shelves. And the Lebanese mother refused to settle for one of the replacements, which included the remote-controlled Spy Gear Finn and the Ultimate Francesco.
"I guess this is what I get as a last-minute shopper," Mrs Khairieh said. "Our little Adam told us he wanted this car a month ago, and I'll make sure I get it for him."
The toy was also sold out at Hamleys and Toys R Us in Time Square Mall in Dubai, as well as the Early Learning Centre (ELC) and Krash Toys and Gadgets in Abu Dhabi Mall.
"We only restocked it yesterday," an assistant said in Toys R Us. "People just don't want any of the other characters, only Lightning McQueen."
The car, which is modelled after the character Lightning McQueen from Disney Pixar's movie Cars 2, sells for Dh299 at the ELC and Hamleys.
"It's a very popular toy among children," one of the salesmen at the ELC centre in Abu Dhabi said.
"They got sold out at our centre nearly two weeks ago, and we still have not restocked."
The toy is not the first holiday must-have from a Disney-Pixar franchise. An action figure from the animation studio's first feature film, Toy Story, was an unexpected hit in the run-up to Christmas 1995, turning toy stores into battlefields.
Short-sighted retailers had expected strong demand for the film's other protagonist, Woody, leaving parents scrambling to put Buzz Lightyear dolls under the tree.
The chaos that ensued made headlines and was even referenced a few years later in the Toy Story franchise's second film.
Finding this year's coveted toy cars was not impossible for parents who did their homework, however. Just down the corridor from the Early Learning Centre in Abu Dhabi Mall, Hallmark was carrying the highly demanded toy car for a slightly higher price at Dh310. And as of yesterday evening, the ELC centre at Mushrif Mall had two cars left, while the branch in Marina Mall had four.
Little Andee De Leon firmly grasped the car in his hands, but at only 2 years old, his parents were reluctant to buy him the toy, which was clearly labelled as not suitable for children under 3.
"He loves his remote-control cars," said Lai, Andee's mother. "But sometimes he's afraid of not being able to control it or crashing it into things."
Many parents complained that the number of toy store options were limited in the capital. Coming from the US, Rosario Flores said that she would have liked to see more options when shopping for her 1-year-old twins.
"We don't have a lot of choices," she said. "The places that we can go to are limited and the prices are ridiculously high."
Despite the hurdles families faced trying to find the perfect gift, Christmas spirit was still evident in shopping malls across the country.
Dubai's largest and most popular mall, Dubai Mall, was only slightly busier than a normal weekend day. Even so, it still had its share of festive shoppers.
Will Robb, from North Ireland, sported a Santa's hat as he heaved bags filled with presents. "How could you tell?" he said, upon being asked whether he was doing last-minute Christmas shopping.
"I always wait until Christmas Eve before doing my shopping," said Mr Robb. "I've been doing it that way for the last 20 years. It feels much more Christmassy."
Noel Sityar, said that he had purchased all of his children's presents in one go yesterday.
"I bought my two oldest children a pair of Sponge Bob walkie-talkies," said the 32-year-old father of three, from the Philippines. "I wanted to get them something they could play with together, but I'm worried that they might use it to gang up on me."
Some of the largest crowds in the mall were around the toyshop Hamleys, enticed in by roller-heeled staff in fancy dress.
A shop assistant there said that on Friday the shop had made half a million dirhams in sales.
Simon Braithwaite and his wife Victoria, were picking presents from the top shelf for their 3-year-old son, who had cannily been left with granddad for the day.
"We're going to be smuggling these from the car into the house later on," said Mr Braithwaite, 35, from the UK.
He said that it was quieter than he expected in the malls this Christmas.
"I've done too many Christmas shopping trips among the crowds in Oxford Street, so this seems quiet in comparison," he said.
"I'm certainly not complaining though."