Our 3-week cruise on MSC Lirica started in Italy and ended in Dubai. We spent a night on the ship before disembarkation so we had more time to explore than is available in the average port stop. This is an especially good thing if you want to see Global Village as it is a ways out of town and doesn’t open until 4pm.
Global Village is not near any of the other tourist attractions of Dubai. It’s not actually close to anything. Even the main attractions of Dubai sit quite a distance from one another as Dubai is huge, though they are not so far away as Global Village. It doesn’t cost much to get into Global Village (about $4 each when we were there) so the main cost is in transportation to get there and back.
Global Village is something like a combination of a souk on steroids and a theme park. The majority of people you see around the tourist sites of Dubai are from elsewhere, either tourists just visiting or workers from other countries. Not so at Global Village. There we saw more locals than tourists.
The women are usually all in black. They wear an abaya which is something like a robe or long dress along with a head scarf (hijab). Some add a niqab which covers their entire face except the eyes. They don’t all walk behind their husbands though. We saw some walking side by side and some even walking ahead. There were also lots of groups of just women. At the entrance there are several ticket windows for ladies only. All of the ticket sellers in the ladies’ line were women, and most of the others as well. The men usually wear white robes, called a dishdasha among other names. Their headdress, which may be white or other colors is a keffiyeh or shemagh consisting of a square scarf tied with a cord.
Like Oman, men in Dubai are allowed up to 4 wives, though wives are expensive so mainly only the wealthy have more than one. It’s not just living expenses. They have to pay the father for their bride. We did see families there with one man and several women. Also some with nannies along to help with the children. The children often wore western style clothing even when the mothers had nothing visible but their eyes. The nannies tended not to be locals and also wore western style clothing, setting them apart from the wives in a family group. In some family groups some women wore niqabs while others did not.
As the 4pm opening time approaches lines begin to build outside Global Village. As soon as it opens people pour in in droves. We got there about 10 minutes after opening and they were pouring in nonstop. Many locals and some tourists too.
The entrance itself is very Arabian in appearance. The first walkway beyond the entrance is lined with buildings with representations of things from all over the world on the outside. Just the other side of the entry there’s a (much shorter) replica of the Burj Khalifa, which is still the world’s tallest building (for now) and located in a different area of Dubai.
Nearby buildings portray the Roman colosseum with the leaning tower of Pisa jutting out of it, and the Eiffel Tower with the opera house of Sydney Australia next door. The Statue of Liberty is on the outside of one of the buildings lining the initial walkway, and there’s an Asian pagoda across the way.
A very white building on the corner is reminiscent of the Taj Mahal.
Around a corner beyond the main entry a very wide walkway with a water feature down the center is surrounded by facades from different countries around the world.
Behind each facade are lots of little shops selling things from that country. One country’s shops might be full of mainly honey and dates while another is mostly clothes.
One side of the main walkway has large facades mainly representing countries of the middle east, most of which each have their own Pavilion.
On the other side there are some different countries with the most colorful being one pavilion for all of Africa. The entrances to the Africa pavilion had actual Africans dressed in their traditional clothing to greet people on the way in. The ones we saw spoke English to us, but they probably speak Arabic too.
Not all countries of the middle east are in that one main grouping. Some are on different walkways, like Syria.
Global Village covers quite a lot of territory, which is probably why it is so far from town since it had to be somewhere with enough space to spread out over many acres. It takes a lot of space to shop around the world all in one location.
Iran of course has Persian rugs, and Africa all sorts of unique items. All of the countries of the Americas both north and south were lumped together in one pavilion, as was most of Europe, probably because there are less products from there that would appeal to the people of Dubai. China of course had a large complex because wherever you live it seems like just about everything is made in China.
Interspersed between and among the shops are lots of little eateries and small food booths. In one spot there was even a guy with a fancy teapot passing out free little cups of tea. There was also one with coffee samples in another location.
Most of the snack shacks are typical little rectangular boxes, but not all. Some of the snack shacks had unique shapes like a teapot or a boat.
Fountains and waterways ran down the middle of the main walkway, and there was a section that had floating shops in little boats.
There was also a carnival area with rides, and several places offering shows. Definitely a place worth seeing even if it is a bit of a distance to get there.
In between some of the pavilions there’s a wide-open space where people had picnics on the grass. Near one end we saw a large fountain with horse sculptures. After dark the fountain had a light display of ever-changing colors.
There was so much to see it Global Village that we mostly just skimmed the surface taking photos from the outside. We did go into some of the pavilions, but not all and did not venture into the area with amusement park rides.
If you’re ever in Dubai and have time to go there, Global Village is definitely worth seeing. It’s the sort of place you could spend all day there and not see it all – except that it’s not open all day so that’s not even an option.