Author:Frenchman, Michael

"Oil oil everywhere but hardly a drop left for us" is the situation facing Dubai. Just a year ago a shock report revealed that the emirate's dwindling oil resources would run out by the year 2010. At present oil production is said to be under 250,000 barrels a day. But Dubai has never allowed itself to be lulled into a false sense of economic security by relying on oil for its income. Trading and the re-export trade have always been the basis of the economy.

During recent years major efforts have been made by the government to diversify the economy -- attracting new investment, the Jebel Ali Free Zone, duty free shopping and now tourism. This month the most outwardly visible sign of this diversification strategy culminates in a grand Shopping Festival between 19 March-18 April. It is the third successive year that the festival has been held.

Last year 1.6 million visitors came to Dubai and bumped up shop sales by $843 million. This year the festival committee is expecting two million bargain hunters who it hopes will spend one billion dollars.

"This year the festival will be bigger, brighter and bolder than ever with new ideas and original events which will appeal to people from all over the world. Both the government and the private sector are working together to prepare a spectacular calendar of entertainment along with great shopping," says Mohammed Al Gergawi, chief executive officer of the festival committee.

The organisers want Dubai to rival Rio de Janeiro's carnival or London's annual Notting Hill Carnival. The advantage that Dubai has is the money and the power to push through innovative ideas to boost its image, even though there might be some reluctant players. This year, as before, 2,300 shops are having to offer...

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