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As always, Al Riqqa saves its best for DSF

Streetside carnival has been a regular feature of festivities for 18 years now

Gulf News

Dubai: Al Riqqa Street has become synonymous with Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) over the years — and not without good reason.

Every DSF, Al Riqqa bursts to life with street lights, rides, games, street performances and, of course, shopping.

It’s one of the few outdoor venues hosting DSF fanfare since the month-long annual event started 18 years ago.

Families and tourists looking to enjoy the fresh air alongside festivities have traditionally flocked to Al Riqqa.

The open plots of land along the pedestrian walkway there have been reserved for DSF activities, as the area is densely populated with hotels, residential blocks, traffic and the landmark Al Ghurair mall.

These plots transform into a carnival venue every DSF, with huge rides and gaming booths mushrooming on site. There are also special DSF stalls every few metres, collectively called the Night Souk because they open during the evening hours.

The weekends are packed with DSF fans — families, couples, tourists, friends — lapping up the excitement. The horse carriage ride through Al Riqqa is popular with most visitors. People snap pictures as passengers hop into the decorated carriages drawn by pretty white horses making a ‘click-clock’ sound on the tarmac. Cars courteously give way, and you can’t help feel a bit special as you go down Al Riqqa in an open-air carriage reminiscent of a royal procession from medieval times.

The flashing lights and the varied sounds of the amusement rides fill the air, while children laugh and shout excitedly. Most of the rides are priced between Dh10 and Dh20, with access via a free scan card that can be topped up with credit. There are merry-go-rounds, slides, trampolines, toy train rides and many others to choose from.

For grown-ups, there are games with prizes to be won. Most of the games involve accuracy skills, with players asked to knock items over with soft balls, or throw items into target areas. Prizes include oversized soft toys and goodie bags.

Also on hand are refreshment stalls selling traditional sweets and snacks. You can get most orders for just Dh10 or under, including Lebanese and Syrian sweets, Indian snacks and Filipino seafood. Moreover, there’s a variety of hot and cold drinks like Arabic mint tea, Turkish coffee and Indian hard-boiled milk tea, on offer for Dh2 to Dh5 approximately.

Al Riqqa is also lined with permanent full-fledged restaurants that take advantage of DSF by promoting outdoor seating areas to lure guests. There are also fashion stores offering discounts of up to 75 per cent.

Shoppers are also spoilt for choice with a range of small items for sale at street booths. There are fancy mobile phone covers, bracelets, watches, perfumes, casual clothes, etc. Many items are priced between Dh10 and Dh65.

“It’s a jolly atmosphere overall, it really feels like DSF out here,” said British expatriate Mohammad Omar, 35.

“It’s an uplifting mood — people playing games or just watching others play. The weather’s great and it’s nice to be out in the city seeing life go by like this.”

Another visitor, 26-year-old Filipino Jayson Ciruelas, said: “This is my first DSF and I really like to come to Al Riqqa with friends. It’s fun, there’s lots of street lighting. Maybe I’ll win some prizes in the games; you can’t just be shopping all the time in the malls.”

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