Dubai kicks off lavish annual shopping festival

Dubai kicks off lavish annual shopping festival

Companies give away millions in gold, cash and cars to promote month-long sale
Take us to your car raffles.

Shopping takes place on a different scale in Dubai, home of the world's largest shopping mall. (Or two.) Even the discounts, when they happen, are massive. 

The emirate kicked off the new year with its annual shopping extravaganza -- the Dubai Shopping Festival.

Originally conceived by the Dubai government in 1996 as an initiative to promote trade, it's now one of the world's largest shopping-themed events and a major tourist draw.

This year's festival began January 3 and will run until February 3.

Retailers are offering discounts of up to 75 percent throughout the city on goods ranging from jewelry to carpets to electronics.

For weary companions of excited shoppers, the Mall of the Emirates has hired a circus to perform several times a day (Tuesdays through Saturdays). Deira City Centre is bringing in a Labanese theater group.

This year's giveaways and raffles are notable for their naked extravagance. 

The Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group is hosting a raffle with gold prizes totaling 4.5 million dirhams (US$1.2 million).

Emirates airline announced a package just for the festival: the airline will foot the bill for an extra night for customers staying in Dubai for at least three nights from January 20 to February 20.

The car raffles are likewise eyebrow-raising.

Nissan is hosting a raffle that will award one winner a day with one of 12 Nissan models. For the Infiniti raffle, a daily winner will receive an Infiniti JX 35, an Infiniti G25 and 100,000 dirhams (US$27,226) in cash.

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