The Dubai Shopping Festival, with its heady mix of entertainment, bargains and quirky promotions, has become something of a cultural phenomenon over the years. One would have thought, in these testing economic times, where caution and conservatism are preached and pursued, that excess and exuberance may not be the order of the day. But at Uptown Mirdiff last night I joined hundreds of others in putting such concerns to one side and marking the end of the festival by tucking into the largest dessert buffet ever prepared.
With eyes greedily surveying the sugary spread before me and my tummy rumbling with gluttonous anticipation, I consoled my conscience with the thought that this was a worthy cause, that my rash and reckless calorific assault would help set a world record for the largest variety of desserts ever served. It was a night to focus on caramel crunch rather than credit crunch. Dubai has always been known for its appetite for life, so I knew I could rely on my fellow diners to set diets aside and eat as if their lives depended on it.
As we surveyed table upon table of succulent sweets, a certain bond of unity and common purpose was forged between us and furtive glances of encouragement were exchanged.When you are stranded in desserts, there can be no deserters. But even for the heartiest and hungriest sweet tooths this was going to be a challenge. No fewer than 2,211 rich, sugar-saturated puddings, of every consistency and colour, lay before us.
I felt like a golden ticket winner at Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I pinched myself in case I was dreaming; drooling, yes, but I was very much awake. And while we all felt like children in a candy store, besuited adults paced the enclosure, clip-boards held firmly in their grasp. They were verifying the record attempt and giving every one of the puddings equal scrutiny. In the end they were satisfied there were enough to indeed break the existing record. But, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding would be in the eating. And that was why I was there.
I sprung from the starting line like an animal freed from a cage, grabbing anything within my arm span with little thought for flavour. Appetite plays tricks on a man, and I was certain this would be easy. Five minutes and seven metres later, I belatedly gave thought to my tactics. Having devoured most of the Austria table, there was a very real danger of being on my knees come Yemen. But on I trudged.
There were caramelised dragons on the China table, a macaroon Eiffel Tower from the French, and a triad of gingerbread Nepalese deities. Each was treated with the same pitiless greed. As the buttons popped on my jeans and my belt buckled under the strain I noticed for the first time the beautiful presentation and delicate flags denoting the proud countries of origin of the plethora of puddings on display.
I could barely stumble, let alone sample, by the time I reached Uganda, and the rest passed by in a baked bilberry blur. Then, suddenly, it was quieter and my hand returned from its forays with no sweet delights in its grasp. I was free of the enclosure. I won't eat again for weeks. So long, Dubai Shopping Festival. I may have lost some dirhams but at least I've gained some pounds. firstname.lastname@example.org