Timeframe: Looking back at Global Village’s celebration of culture

Diversity is at the heart of this 26-year-old cultural destination in Dubai

The first Global Village, in 1997, was alongside Dubai Creek, opposite Dubai Municipality. Photo: Twitter
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It’s common for most people not to have visited their city’s most famous landmarks. Not all New Yorkers have been to the Statute of Liberty, not all Londoners have ridden on the London Eye, not all Parisians have been up the Eiffel tower and not all Dubai residents have been up Burj Khalifa, yet.

However, ask anyone who lives in Dubai whether they’ve been to Global Village and the answer will often be a resounding yes.

This month, the cultural entertainment destination turns 26 and is a firm staple in the emirate's entertainment scene. It’s fascinating to reflect on how Global Village mirrors and celebrates one of Dubai’s, and the UAE’s, greatest assets and values — its multicultural fabric.

When it started as several kiosks in January 1997 on the Creek side opposite Dubai Municipality, the welcoming sign, as seen in the photo above, illustrated different structures from around the world, such as the Taj Mahal in India and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

It then moved to Oud Metha near Wafi City for five years before settling in its current location between the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road and Emirates Road in Wadi Al Safa, where it welcomes millions of visitors a season. Starting off with two shorter seasons a year, Global Village now opens for six months a year.

Organised in four sections, Global Village now has 3,500 retail and commercial outlets and more than 200 food outlets representing the tastes and culture of as many as 93 cultures and 27 international pavilions. There are more than 170 ways the whole family can entertain themselves through carnival rides, arcade games and with more than 40,000 live performances ranging from cultural dances to acrobatics. Over the years, Global Village has also had its share of international superstar appearances or performances for fans, including Shah Rukh Khan, Jason Derulo, Liam Payne, Samira Said and Elissa.

Over the past 26 years, the entertainment destination has achieved numerous world records. During its 25th season it broke 25 Guinness World Records in celebration of the silver jubilee.

Some of these included the highest altitude skydiving firework display at 4,907.28 metres, the most letters sent to Santa with 2,144 collected in 24 hours, the largest underwater LED mesh screen at 5,013.4 square metres, and the largest board game, snakes and ladders at 95.63 metres squared.

While these records are entertaining and fun, they are part of a larger picture that makes the cultural destination, an indelible part of Dubai and the UAE. Celebrating diversity and culture is at the heart of Global Village. This is not only proven in the world record they achieved with most nationalities, 65, waving simultaneously but as a destination that welcomes so many visitors from around the world enjoying how other countries and cultures celebrate the best of what they have to offer.

For its 27th season, Global Village will run until April 29

Updated: January 06, 2023, 6:01 PM