DUBAI // The Christmas frenzy is working up to a climax with just three shopping days to go as thousands of people rush to buy last-minute presents and prepare their festive dinners.
Cash tills in malls and shopping centres across the country are ringing a merry tune for retailers as people wrap up their gift searches and put up final decorations in their homes.
Electronics shops are reporting a particularly brisk trade.
"Handheld electronics are the big thing this year as opposed to large TVs and stereo systems," said Vaishali Basu, the head of corporate communications at Jumbo Electronics. "We get many individuals buying one or two items, but we are also seeing a lot of corporate interest with people buying for an office."
Portable gadgets such as iPad tablet computers, smart phones and mp3 players are at the top of many people's lists and stores are cashing in. This year's holiday spending is already expected to eclipse last year's as in-store offers attract more customers, Ms Basu said. Visitor numbers at malls across Dubai are also expected to be up compared with last year.
"We are expecting to see at least a single-digit percentage increase this Christmas period from last year," said Baiju Kurieash, the Dubai Shopping Malls Group managing director. The figures are being boosted by increased tourist numbers, many of whom have been buying gifts for friends and family while on holiday, he said.
The increase in spending may be an indication that fewer people are travelling over the festive period. While many expatriates will be returning to their home countries, Stephanie Inglesfield, who has lived in Dubai for seven years, is one of those who will be celebrating Christmas in the UAE with her family.
"This is the best time of year in Dubai," said the mother of four. "You see people singing carols, Christmas trees getting put up. It really shows how mixed and multicultural Dubai is. It's wonderful."
Mrs Inglesfield said her sons, aged from four to 13, were all asking for the latest in handheld technology.
"They all want electronic gadgets or video games for presents," she said. "We did get the oldest a bicycle last time, but generally it's electronic stuff they go for."
She will be taking her family to a restaurant for their Christmas meal to cut down on stress. Another popular alternative for those either short on time or who want their Christmas turkey to be perfect is to order it ready-made.
"We have been overwhelmed with orders this year and not just for Christmas," said Akil Ahmed, a chef at the Centre Hotel and Residence. "Last weekend we had the ovens roasting all day and night for people having pre-Christmas celebrations."
The hotel is bracing itself for calls from people who have not prepared their Christmas dinner and want to order in from the hotel at short notice.
The hotel's revenue on the takeaway Christmas turkey meals has already increased from Dh1,500 last year to Dh2,200 so far this year, with three days still to go.
"On Thursday the phones will run hot," he said. "It will be all hands on deck for seasoning, stuffing, roasting and preparing the vegetables.
"Every year we cook an extra 20 turkeys because we have on several occasions had people calling hysterically upset because they've burnt Christmas dinner or the turkey didn't thaw."
Ordering cooked turkeys has become very popular and the hotel has repeat customers who have been ordering them for more than a decade, he said. A number of hotels offer the service and people are advised to order at least 48 hours in advance.
True to the spirit of the shopping season, bargain hunters can get a good deal. A 6 kilogram turkey with all the trimmings costs Dh395 from the City Centre Hotel and Residence. A similarly sized turkey at the Media Rotana Hotel is Dh415.