x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Shopping with the night owls at Adnec

The annual Ramadan and Eid Festival is something of a fixture in the capital's calendar.

Stalls at the Ramadan and Eid Festival at Adnec. Courtesy Adnec
Stalls at the Ramadan and Eid Festival at Adnec. Courtesy Adnec

Eid may be a few weeks away yet, but early birds can seize the chance to get the gift-shopping out of the way by stopping at the Ramadan and Eid Festival currently being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The exhibition

The annual festival is an Abu Dhabi fixture during the Holy Month. Hundreds of exhibitors across the Middle East and Asia descend on the capital to showcase the latest items, ranging from arts, fashion and furniture to home appliances and beauty products. With Muslims breaking the fast at sunset and encouraged to attend the special Taraweeh prayers in the evening, the festival is purely for night owls, with doors opening from 8.30pm and staying open every night until around 2.30am.

The layout

Walk through the entry gate and make an immediate right turn for a five-minute stroll to Hall 1. Spread across five halls, the shopping areas are split into two wings with a large food court in the middle. Make your pick-up or drop-off plans here.

The stalls

The hundreds of stalls are housed in geographical zones, such as the Syrian Wing, the Khaleeji Zone, Egypt, as well as Thailand. However, these borders are loose at best, as an Egyptian retailer had no problem annexing some Thai territory to sell his perfumes.

The Syrian wing has a colourful collection of female clothing and jewellery as well as stalls selling gaudy furniture. We were taken with the gold-painted tea stands and cup-holders encrusted with bling.

As well as a wide assortment of ouds, kanduras and more maximalist-style furniture, the Gulf zone also houses interesting inclusions such as the Abu Dhabi-based Ur Art Gallery and Al Shaleelah Art Shop, with paintings sold at "special festival prices".

The Thailand area should be sponsored by the Cartoon Network, such is the variety of shirts, pyjamas and even iPad cases emblazoned with the likes of Tom and Jerry, SpongeBob and a host of Looney Tunes characters.

The vendors

They are truly the stars of the show. This multicultural and somewhat cliquey mix dedicate their lives to being on the road and know what customers look for.

Over in "Thailand", Sasheendra is manning a stand selling Titans: a four-in-one bladed gizmo that slices, shaves, grates and peels.

Having sold house appliances for nearly 50 years, Sasheendra says he is not worried about the lack of people at his stand at the present time. "I sell when I do demos," he says. "When I do that, I only need one person to buy in front of everyone then everyone else will also buy one."

Meanwhile, at Ur Art Gallery, Ammar Omar explains that the aim of the gallery's participation in the shopping festival is to lure people to the actual gallery site as opposed to winning on-the-spot sales. "People need time when buying paintings because they need to see where it will fit in the house," he says. "So over here we just show them what we have but don't expect lots of sales. That will come when they hopefully visit us later."

The sale

Ayman Hassoun is not too worried that he might be losing another potential customer at his Ishbelia stand. After years selling silverware in Syria, he just knows when a customer doesn't want that tea-set. After the customer leaves in a huff, Hassoun explains the eyes tell it all. "When someone wants to buy something, you look at their eyes and not their wallet," he says. "If their eyes are serious then they will buy, whatever the cost. That lady wasn't serious, I could tell she was just playing."

Ramadan and Eid Festival 2012 is at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre until August 19. Ramadan timing is 8.30pm to 2.30am. Eid timing is 4pm to midnight. Entry costs Dh10