The fourth Souk Festive Market in Madinat Jumeirah could easily have been a European winter wonderland, according to visitors.
Madinat Jumeirah's festive market has Christmas spirit
DUBAI // Visitors made their way through the snow-covered trees to the Alpine train station, where a crowd gathered to watch the model locomotive make its rounds.
Others waited in line to meet Santa Claus, who offered a gift to each person as they posed for a picture with him. Both children and adults, who had awakened their inner child, walked away beaming from ear to ear.
The fourth Souk Festive Market in Madinat Jumeirah could have been a European winter wonderland, according to some visitors.
Mehdi Ahmed, a Dubai resident from Iran, was a newcomer to the event and browsed through Christmas souvenirs at a wooden hut with his six-year-old son, Amir, who was decked out in a jaunty festive hat.
“It’s marvellous what has been done to create this atmosphere,” Mr Ahmed said. “We love the trees, the lights and the model train station.”
A moment later, they were off to catch up with the rest of the family and greet Santa.
The hut’s owner, Nadia Tawil, from Bethlehem, has participated in the festival from its beginning.
“You will not believe that you are in Dubai,” she said. “It feels like this is Europe because of the beautiful decorations and many people come to experience it.”
The most popular items on offer in her establishment were the Santa Clauses, the olive-wood Nativity objects and the handmade items including Christmas stockings that Mrs Tawil makes.
In the background, the ringing of a bell could be heard every five minutes to let people know the freshly baked gingerbread and chocolate cookies were making their way down the cookie slide, a new feature for this year. It was set in the midst of a grove of trees, near the model reindeer, where visitors could pick up the treats for free. A new bridge led to a massive Christmas tree by the water.
The festival features nine Christmas-themed food and retail huts. Three stations allow guests to swap their cash for vouchers that can be redeemed throughout the site.
Food and drink came second for Page and Megan Stevens, two sisters from the UK, who were making their way to take part in the most popular activity, having their picture taken with Santa. They bubbled over with holiday spirit.
“I’ve been here before and it’s a really cool way to include Christmas in Dubai,” said 16-year-old Megan, who brought her sister here for the first time. The younger of the Stevens sisters was just as pleased.
“I’m excited to get a picture with Santa,” said 13-year-old Page. “It doesn’t make us miss Christmas in the UK that much because we can enjoy it here too.
“On Christmas Day, we are waking up early to open presents and have breakfast with family, so it’s a very exciting time.”
Those from warmer parts of the world were enjoying themselves just as much. Lee Paler, from the Philippines, brought his father William to the market. The son was most impressed with the railway station.
“We just stumbled across the market,” Lee said. “It’s a bit strange in Dubai but it’s also a nice idea because it reminds us of the diversity of people and sharing beliefs and cultures. It’s good for families to bond on a special occasion like Christmas.”
Another hit was the stall that provided roasted chestnuts and chestnut ice cream. Gene Guillema, from the Philippines, was busy handling customers while demonstrating how each order was prepared.
“First we break the chestnuts and place them in the oven and after a short while we put them on the heating tray, so they stay nice and warm,” she said. “We get very busy because chestnuts are popular during Christmas.”
Big leather cushions were provided for those wanting to enjoy food, beverages and shisha. Spicy hot chocolate, made with a secret festive recipe, and Santa’s lemonade, made with cranberry juice, gingerbread syrup, lemon juice and lemonade, proved popular.
The market is open until Sunday from 5pm to midnight on weekdays and 4pm to 1am during weekends.