Thousands of visitors were given free admission to the 23rd year of Dubai’s Global Village on Tuesday ahead of the official opening on Wednesday.
The popular festival park will stay open until April 6 next year.
This year visitors can explore 27 new pavilions. All told, 78 countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, India, China, Russia, Kuwait and Japan are represented.
The pavilions represent different monuments and landmarks unique to countries as well as offering live entertainment, street food, handcrafted goods and traders dressed in the authentic costumes of each nation.
Among the new attractions this year are eight bridges that replicate some of the world’s most famous landmarks, an interactive theatre for children, a multicultural floating market and more than 100 interactive video games and 30 rides for children and adults.
Some of the attractions were still receiving the finishing touches ahead of today’s official opening but the decision to waive the usual admission fee of Dh15 meant that people were not complaining.
“This is something that you really don’t get in other countries,” said Drissi Khalil, 53, from France. “The size and variety of the pavilions is incredible and it is a great place for families to come to.”
Hannah Foy, 10, lives in Ireland but this was her third visit to Global Village.
“I like the fact that you can learn about all the different countries and their cultures,” she said. “I definitely will be back.”
Engy Algarf, 29, from Egypt has made many trips to Global Village already. “It’s a really nice place to hang out, especially when it’s in full swing and there are more live entertainment shows,” she said.
It is a testament to the venue’s enduring popularity that people make several trips in the course of a year.
“I usually come to Global Village with my family every month as there are always new shows and attractions to enjoy,” said Egyptian Hashem Abuhafa. “It is an incredible experience that Dubai should be proud of.”
Another Egyptian national, Ismael Mohamed, 30, was also taken back by what was on offer.
“Coming here is like visiting lots of different countries that a lot of people will never be able to visit for real,” Mr Mohamed said. “That is what is great about it. You get to experience different cultures that you might not otherwise.”
Taraq Jabbar, 30, from Iraq, said that he planned to make more than one trip to Global Village this year.
“I might be back next week because I want to see everything,” Mr Jabbar said. “It’s really cool but there is still so much not open yet that I want to see.”
Chinese visitor Dudy Zhou, 30, said Global Village was a highlight of her first trip to Dubai.
This year’s event will also include the largest Emirati pavilion in the history of Global Village, and the return of the Wheel of the World — which has been redesigned to include a 50-metre LED screen to show live footage from Dubai.