Why Global Village is a haven for Ramadan night owls

The much-loved family park has extended its season until May 7

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The move by Global Village to extend its season throughout Ramadan is a blessing.

Not only is it shrewd to capitalise on the final days of spring, but it also gels with the nocturnal lifestyles adopted by many UAE citizens and residents during the holy month.

Visiting Global Village this week, I discovered the park’s Ramadan tent in the centre of the site. With a cannon that fires at sunset, signalling the end of the fasting day, the venue is laid back and luxurious.

It is nearly midnight when I arrive to try the suhoor set menu of Turkish dishes, including the popular Iskender kebab, made of strips of meat served with tomato sauce and yoghurt, drizzled in butter.

Coming from someone who is considered a tent connoisseur by friends, this is a new Ramadan vibe. It is refreshing to see the sharing of food without a cloud of shisha smoke overhead – smoking is banned in the park – and the rancour of card games.

Instead, I enjoyed a soundtrack of classical Arabic music, performed by an orchestra playing within earshot on an adjacent stage.

Majlis of the World, which is specially put up for Ramadan at Global Village. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Another bonus in making the journey late in the evening, particularly during the week, is that you will have most of the park’s popular rides to yourself.

I felt like a kid again as I join a group of teenagers as one of a handful of people on the Shang High, a dizzying ride that spins you around 85 metres above Global Village. I follow this up by visiting the Ripley's Believe It Or Not exhibition, where I wander alone through halls of wax figures and make silly faces at variations of myself in the Marvellous Mirror Maze, which houses more than 100 mirrors.

It is 1am, which I realise is the ideal time to shop if you don’t like the crowds. This made the Egyptian pavilion a pleasant experience. With attendants normally feeding off the frenzied energy of big groups, they were calm and charming when I wandered through.

I also get a few insider tips for my dirhams: many of the items follow a pricing structure agreed by nearly everyone working in the pavilion.

“This saves you time if you are looking for an extra bargain and keeps everything fair,” says the salesman when concluding our transaction: a tray and set of coffee cups emblazoned with the faces of Egyptian singers Umm Kulthum and Abdul Halim Hafez.

Shopkeeper Haseeb at nearly 2am in Global Village, Dubai. Saeed Saeed / The National

I can also confirm the Americas pavilion is worth a trip. On sale are random items, such as vintage board games and Uno card sets, you can also get a foot massage beneath a crooked poster of the Marvel franchise.

A few shops away is Glow Shirts, a stall offering glow-in-the-dark shirts with images of Mickey Mouse, Squid Games and random names like Ali and Youssef. Pakistani manager Haseeb is adamant it was his choice to set up shop in the Americas three years ago, even though most stock comes from China.

Closing time approaches at 2am and it seems the majority of park’s visitors are flooding to the dozens of food stalls festooned with Ramadan lanterns and festive lights.

There isn't long to enjoy the night's final meals before the fast begins a couple of hours later.

I dine at the Floating Market, a brilliantly designed Asian food hub evoking the sights and sounds of South East Asia. Bangkok Grill is where the crowd is at and I order two sticks of grilled octopus with the mild sauce, which still manages to make my head glisten. Despite the beads of sweat, I am happy.

Ramadan is about that sense of connection. I feel that bond as we – families, couples and individuals – sit together on park benches and load up in preparation for the next day’s fast.

From a distance, I hear the excited shrieks of younger people riding the Shang High and I shudder, a reminder for next time that some things are better left to the kids.

Updated: October 14, 2022, 7:36 AM
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