Monday, February 14, 2005

Freedom and Forgiveness

Freedom and forgiveness

Ganyan ang lenguahe ng usapan nila in the years before Leo and Cristy got married.
I used to overhear Leo on the phone using such expletives in their dialogue.

I also learned that Cristy used similar language.

I thought that was no way to communicate to a loved one.
When I was growing up, my parents had endless discussions and debates about many things, money especially. But I never heard them cuss each other.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about what to say to you, and had prepared endless drafts for weeks.

Ours was a roller coaster relationship.

But tell me whose isn’t?

Despite their endless fights, Leo and Cristy willed to be together in a vow that has something to do with forever.

I do remember I have called you shit and all. I don’t remember what provoked me into using that . But I do apologise. And I never really meant it.

I’m never the type who would confront someone or fight on the level of cussing. I’m not the confrontational type. Before talking to someone in a debate, I’d like to carefully think my lines and choose my words.

That’s part of who I am, wired into my DNA. We live with the choices we make for the freedom to choose is the essence of man’s existence.

I need a lot of reflection before arriving at a decision ... I agonise over the thought of hurting or killing someone, and what value it would add to my life. This might make me look indecisive.

Life has taught me that freedom means choosing not to do just about anything but to do the right thing.

Freedom finds completion in the exercise of discretion (first posted on Oct. 15, 2004)

Discretion requires keen judgment. Good judgement calls for sacrifice, restraint and postponing gratification.

It means opting not to go for instant pay-offs by considering long-term gains.

It feels good to obtain immediate reprisal for something wrong done to you by another. Reprisals tend to hurt those who exact them, too. This is what America under George Bush has realised with its post-9/11 actions.

Pain, when countered in kind, only leads to an exponential multiplication of the same.

Does freedom mean not getting back in kind? Are those who have lived through cruel times more prone to exact more violent reprisals?

When we’re moping over the unfair state of things caused by a person or people who did us wrong, where does freedom lie?

Our freedom to extend a finger ends where somebody else’s nose begins.

We can ask the next person to move over to make room for our extended limb. But he also has the freedom to say ‘No’.

So how can you say you’re free when it has limits? Or is the idea of freedom just an illusion, a contradiction?

These are questions for which I have no ready answers.

But of all the creatures in the universe, only us human beings can know the consequences of our actions.

When told different versions of the same story, our hearts can know the bigger story — the truth.

While freedom does not allow us to do anything we like without disturbing the balance of nature, it gives us absolute license to express our truth.

And one plain truth, as Dr Martin Luther Jr. once said, is this: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”

Getting back in kind is good. Instant revenge feels good. But to say your truth, in the exercise of self-restraint, is even better.

If the Blacks whose forefathers were forced into slavery would try to settle ancient scores, where would all the Whites be today?

The truth is such that when you try to inflict pain on another, you invariably hurt yourself back. And this is true whether you’re talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or a love affair.

And this is where Dr. Luther’s thinking could solve a lot of problems. First, it allows us to get out of the chicken-and-egg equation, endlessly trying to figure out who started to inflict pain on the other.

There is no substitute for dialogue among equals, not between a master and slave, to offer a solution.

More importantly, the truth about forgiveness based on justice is that it starts the process of healing. It puts an end to ancient hatreds.

As we’ve already seen, no man can claim he is absolutely free to do anything. Nature — and common sense — do impose some limits.

In my Dubai state of mind, freedom means having a heart big enough to forgive those who have wronged us.

Hope you have a great Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

When freedom stings

When we’re asked to choose, we discard what we consider inferior.

In the process of choosing — colours, friends, subjects, meals, a lifetime partner — it's normal we all play favourites.

But the problem is that those we consider as inferior could be the best. The tragedy is we may never know. We decide based on our limited understanding.

We become victims of our own ignorance. What’s sad is that the choices we had in the past may no longer be there when we finally learned our lessons.

Nothing has never been more painful than having to find a lifetime partner.

There’s literally an infinite number of choices, if you consider that half of the world's 6 billion human inhabitants, are females. This means that, outside your immediate family and relatives, every female of marrying age (from about age 14 to 40), is a candidate.

This is where freedom stings. It’s impossible to choose from millions of potential partners without getting overwhelmed.

So you narrow down your choices to a few, perhaps three to five.

But out of that number, there’s just one person who brings out the best and the worst in you.

(Now edit that article on how biodiversity offers the key to food security, culled from a speech of the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which is supposed to go on tomorrow’s Page 3, along with a “City Talk” story on Ramadan.)

I’m blank.

Anyway, silence of the mind is good. Dirty thoughts pollute the brain to the point of self-destruction.

This is one phenomenon I’ve been reflecting on.

Silence is the absence of sound, but that it does not mean the absence of a person or object capable of making a sound.

One of the things I’ve realised is that silence is a powerful, effective way of communicating.

Being silent, which is how God communicates with us most of the time, does not mean the communicator does not exist.

Silence is the evidence of what awaits us. Silence watches our every move.

And silence is where my problem begins with freedom.

I believe there’s only one person that’s meant for another. And I thought I already found that person in this girl.

But I don’t want to work out problems with tempers going haywire.

I’d rather do it with silence, because it is more effective in making people realise deeper realities that lie within.

I may have been an oaf to someone, and a hero to another.

But this is a time to choose.

In the past, some were “chosen” at specific times or the periods they are in -- at work, school, by parents or friends.

I haven’t seriously thought about choosing until now.

This is the downside of freedom -- it offers the extremes of a possible overload of choices or an absolute lack of it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Old habits die hard

The revolution is stuck in a traffic jam

By M of

After many years, I came back to Bangkok to see old friends.

I have heard how Thailand has overtaken the Philippines economically. Don Muang airport looked the same. Honestly, I was not immediately awed by what I saw.... till the drive to the hotel.

The Bangkok I knew was still there. But it was hidden under the concrete highways and rail system. This definitely not old Siam .

Thai toll roads that would put our NLEX and SLEX to shame.. I saw a monorail system that was extensive and efficient. Underground, there was a subway system that is not even in the planning stage in the Philippines.

I read somewhere that it would take the Philippines ten years to catch up to where Thailand is now. Wow. Ganoon na ba kalayo ang agwat? Old time Filipinos in Thailand remember when it took 3 Thai Baht to buy a Philippine peso. Now the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas affirms that 1 Peso is equal to 1.43 Baht. Still it does not tell the whole story. A US dollar is equivalent to roughly 38.68 Baht. It takes roughly 56 pesos to match a dollar.

What happened? The question has been asked and answered in many fora. The topic has been beaten to death. Yet no solution is at hand. Pick your scapegoat. Religion? Culture? The World Bank? The Americans? Politicians /Government officials? The Military? The Rich? Marcos? Erap? GMA? The Enormous Debt, The Muslim and Communist Insurgency? Pick your excuse!

Traffic in Bangkok is just as bad as it is in Manila. The air pollution is noxious in both cities. Noise pollution though may be a different matter. I noticed though that our Filipino drivers honk their horn so much more than their Thai counterparts. I would go out on a limb and say that we Filipinos tend to be “noisier” than Thais. I may of course be wrong. But when I was in line at the Immigration and Customs line in Thailand’s Don Muang Airport, I swear you would hear a pin drop. It was quiet like a library. In contrast, while standing in line at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I could have sworn that I was in a wet market. But let’s go back to talking about traffic. It is impossible to talk about the Philippines without talking about the horrendous traffic jams caused by uncaring drivers and pedestrians.

For those who have not been to Metro Manila in a while, driving will push you close to killing somebody or being killed yourself.

There is no such thing as “right of way.” Road courtesy is hard to come by. Lines on the street are either non-existent or not followed. Traffic signs are mere suggestions.

Traffic often crawls to a stand still. When this happens, people will drive on the shoulder. Worst yet, they will drive on the opposite side of the street - The locals call it "counter-flow." The practice does make sense when law enforcement uses a lane or two of the opposing lane to ease traffic on a more congested opposite lane. However, when drivers themselves decide when to "counter-flow" it is pure chaos.

Many will be shocked to know that at night, following traffic lights in Metro Manila's thoroughfares is optional. If you stop at a red light past midnight, and there are fewer cars on the road, drivers behind you may honk their horn at you and curse you if you wait for the light to turn green before you drive through an intersection. Come night time, Red does not mean STOP in Metro Manila.

Everybody knows that buses and jeepneys load and unload passengers anywhere they please. They honk their horns incessantly. It does not take a mechanic to know that vehicles are in such poor states of maintenance because they spew black poisonous smoke. Tricycles, pedicabs and even calesas vie for the limited road space available – dodging pedestrians along the way. It is pure hell.

Of course there are certain Filipino driving habits that just make you scratch your head. Have you noticed that many drivers in the Philippines will switch off their headlights to "save" on energy. Or how they pump on the gas just before they turn the engine off? Or how some drivers refuse to shut off the engine when filling up with gas? The traffic mess is so symptomatic of what is wrong with the Philippines.

Everybody wants a better Philippines. Everybody and his uncle always say progress is impossible without funds. Well here is something we can improve without money – How about discipline? It should not cost us a centavo. Gaano ba kahirap to follow internationally understood traffic rules. Red means Stop, Green means go. Even my 4 year old nephew understands that. Bakit di natin masunod yun? Di naman siguro tayo tanga. If people from other countries see this, will they not say na di tayo sibilisado? Ano ba naman ang kailangang gawin para sa tamang tawiran tumawid ang mga pedestrian? I pity Bayani Fernando, he is constantly fighting an uphill battle.

He recently put into effect a novel yet controversial way of keeping pedestrians off the streets.Called the Wet Flag Patrol, it is a truck-mounted 2-m-by-3-m ‘wet flag’ driven along the city’s streets, soaking pedestrians who stray off the curb.

People are divided about its efficacy. Some say it has come to this. Others say that embarrassing people into following the law does not work. One wrote a Manila broadsheet to say that the only thing it does is proclaim to the world that Filipinos are “morons.”

But are we morons? When did we stop crossing at pedestrian crossings? When did we stop heeding traffic signs and traffic lights? Personally, I think this illustrates the very basic flaw in Filipino society. How can we tackle huge economic debt, moral decay and other gargantuan tasks that confront us when we have a people who do not care to do what is right?

Everywhere you go in Manila, it does not take long whiff the putrid smell of garbage. In case you can’t find it, it should be where there is a huge sign that says “Bawal Magtapon ng Basura Dito.”

We are always quick to blame the lack of enforcement. True, our enforcement of laws could use a lot of improvement but if people do what is right, it should not matter.

Many essays and editorials have been written about what needs to be changed in Philippine government before, but for any change to take place, we must change the way we think. It is such a cliché that I throw up just a little. But it is true.


Sagad na nga ba sa buto ang pagka corrupt ng Pilipino? Corruption is a cancer that does not spare any of us.

Everytime one buys a pirated DVD, every time one dons a fake Lacoste shirt, every time one hands an MMDA officer money to get off a traffic ticket, every time you use a fixer to get your passport renewed, every time one asks or gives a favor in violation of some procedure. We are stained.

The true measure of a man’s character is what he does when nobody is looking. Often, we celebrate beating the law. As a people, we applaud when we escape punishment. We rejoice at beating “the system.” Tuwang tuwa tayo pag nakalusot! Masarap pag nakakalamang. Small pleasures of a downtrodden people. Are we so demoralized by society that we need to cheat the system for enjoyment? Have we lost our sense of what is good or bad?

Henry Mencken said that "The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught." Beating the system is a way of life in the Philippines. Many will swear it is the only way. But if we bribe our way out of the traffic ticket, we are just as corrupt as the MMDA officer who takes the hundred peso bill tucked in our driver’s license. It is a deadly circle of corruption patronage.

It is easy to see that corrupt men do not make good citizens. A national conscience so immune to corruption can not be free. Our brand of democracy is world-class in its dysfunction. It is such a bad example of what democracy is that people in the Philippines actually consider being ruled by a tyrant as a better alrernative. Can you imagine any other nation on earth asking to be ruled by a dictator?

Because of the culture of corruption and chaos. Our youth are disillusioned. The fire of idealism has been drenched with indifference. Marching in the streets has proved futile. Our farcical elections are useless money pits that only the rich can join. Our religion has become detached from what is real. Things are not looking too rosy.

The nation has not been able to nurse her sons and daughters at her bosom. Our doctors are leaving the country to become nurses. Our teachers have left to become domestic helpers. Our men have left our shores to work on foreign ships. Our women scurry to Japan to become “entertainers.” Who can blame them. Our country’s coffers and resources have long been drained. It is every man, woman and child for himself, yet they die of starvation. Bahala kayo sa buhay niyo. Basta ako ok mentality is the norm.

What is even more painful is that millions of Filipino OFW eyes have seen what a prosperous, thriving nation can be No not in their own country but in countries they toil in.

Their own eyes have seen that road discipline can amount to commuter convenience. That a well-planned system can accomplish efficiency. Filipinos who have gone abroad have rubbed elbows with citizens of other countries who willingly sacrifice their personal gain for the greater good. Yet when we are back at home we subscribe to the same destructive behavior that we frown on when we are on foreign soil? This has all been been said countless of times before. Maybe saying it just one more time will help us see how foolish we often are.

The reality of our dream for a better Philippines is not even in the horizon. The overdue revolution that we all desire has not happened. The change that would put us back on track will not emanate from a messianic leader. It will not be enforced by a junta. It needs to start with every Filipino wanting the same thing - a better Philippines.

It is postponed every time, we cheat. It is scrapped every time we give or take a bribe. It is aborted every time we put ME before ALL. At this rate, it will not happen in our lifetime.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Random phrases

To fiddle
And endlessly click the phone
To feign trying to call
Is the height of pretend existence.

To let go
And not be in control
To stop taking charge
Is a moment of deliverance.

To give up
And feel at peace
To gently lay one’s mind to rest
Is honey for the heart.

To love
Feel an all-consuming fire
To let nature take its course
Is the destiny of the soul.

To live
Seek for moments of glory
In the higher truth out of the ordinary
Is the joy of my desire.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Malayang pagsuyo

"Ano ang gusto mo?" tanong ko. "Ikaw ang under or ikaw ang nang-a-under."

"Depende,” sagot nya.

“Gusto ko pareho kaming nagmamahalan,” dagdag ko.

“Maganda yang sinabi mo. Di ko naisip agad un.”

Payak na kwentuhan ukol sa masalimuot na buhay, kami at ng aking kaibigan.

“Naalala ko pa sabi ng Nanay ko, sa salitang Bicol. Kung magiging 'under de saya' daw ako ng magiging asawa, ‘mahibi-hibi (iiyak nang iiyak) ako’.”

“Di ko alam kung bakit nya nasabi yun. Dahil kaya alam nya, bilang babae, kung ano ang implikasyon nito? O na bilang babae, alam nya ang kahihinatnan ng isang lalaki na hawak sa leeg ng asawang babae?O di kaya naman, ayaw nya lang akong mag-asawa at all?

“Ang ‘Under de Saya', di ba sunud-sunuran? Ang verbal abuse, abuse pa rin yun. Kahit emotional torture, abuse din un. Mas milder pa nga ang physical kesa sa verbal or emotional. May mga lalaki na kaya sumusunod e dahil mahal nila si babae. Pero pag oo lang ng oo ang lalaki, walang thrill. Masarap din na pinapaligaya ka at sinusunod ng lalaki, pero depende pa rin sa sitwasyon. Some girls would rather let the man take charge … Dapat mas dominante sya saiyo. Gusto ko takot ako sa lalaki, kung mahal mo talaga, nirerespeto mo.

* * *

Ang isipin ka, madaling gawin. Pero ang limutin, mahirap.

Hirap din ang aking kalooban, isipin ka man o pilit iwaksi sa aking pagod nang alaala.

At minsan, pumapatak na lang kuha ko ng kusa.

Hanggang ngayon.

Di ito dahil gustong lumuha ng mga mata ko, kundi ang tubig ay galing sa pinakabukal ng puso.

* * *

Kumuha ka.
Lumuha ka, aking puso.
Hanggang ang punglo ng bawat patak ng luha
Ay tumimo sa dibdib ng kawalan
Nang ang alaala sa mga lumipas
Ay mabaon sa limot ng karimlan

Lumuha ka
Hanggang sa pagtulog
Upang maabot ang sukduklan ng pagsiphayo
Nang sa pagmulat mo'y malito sa dating dahilan ng pagluha mo.
At dumako ang iyong puso sa liwanag ng malayang pagsuyo.

Usapang lasing

Ano ang gusto mo? Ikaw ang under or ikaw ang nang-a-under?

sagot: “Gusto ko pareho kaming nagmamahalan.”

Naalala ko pa sabi ng Nanay ko.

Kung magiging “under de saya” daw ako ng magiging asawa, “mahibi-hibi (iiyak nang iiyak) ako”.

Di ko alam kung bakit nya nasabi yun.

Dahil kaya alam nya, bilang babae, kung ano ang implikasyon nito?
Na bilang babae, alam nya ang kahihinatnan ng isang lalaki na hawak sa leeg ng asawang babae?

O di kaya naman, ayaw nya lang akong mag-asawa at all?

“Under de Saya”, sunud-sunuran.

The thought of verbal abuse, kahit sampalin or murahin, abuse pa rin yun. Mas milder pa ang physical kesa sa verbal or emotional.

May mga lalaki na kaya sumusunod e dahil mahal sila.

Pag oo lang ng oo ang lalaki, walang thrill.
Masarap din na pinapaligaya ka at sinusunod ng lalaki, depende sa sitwasyon.

Some girls would rather let the man take charge …

"Gusto ko takot ako sa lalaki, kung mahal mo talaga, nirerespeto mo.
Dapat mas dominante sya saiyo," .

Ang isipin ka, mahirap gawin.
Pero hirap na rin ang aking kalooban. At minsan, pumapatak na lang kuha ko ng kusa.
Hanggang ngayon. Di ito dahil gustong lumuha ng mata ko, kundi galing sa kaloob-looban ng puso ang pinakabukal nito.

Umiyak ka,
Umiyak ka, aking puso, hanggang di mo na malaman kung ano ang dahilan ng pagluha mo.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Diverse Dubai


“Tenth shopping festival ends with a flashbulb.”
This headline appeared in a foreign paper, after a small fire broke out at Global Village recently.

Within minutes, the fire, caused by a fire-eater on stilts who tripped during a parade, was put out.
The fire crippled one of the floats, but the headline painted a different story.

“Perhaps this indicates the jealousy other destinations feel for Dubai. A molehill is turned into a mountain,” said Ahmad Abdullah, a UAE national who was at the Village when the fire broke out. He was visiting the Japanese pavilion with his friend Louay when it happened. “I learned about it through the public address system.”
The month-long fête did not end just then.
The fun had just begun.

The festival, started in 1996 as a shopping and family leisure event, has evolved into a fabulous fair and turned Dubai into a mosaic of cultures under the theme “One World. One Family. One Festival.”

Dubai, a city of about 1 million inhabitants, received 3.1 million tourists during the last festival. This time, Saeed Al Naboudah, chief executive of Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), said the city is on target to receive 3.3 million visitors.

During the 32-day festival, Dubai becomes a magnet for shoppers, with about 5,000 visitors coming from Iran alone daily. About 45 per cent of visitors are tourists who have flown in, while the rest are nationals and other Gulf residents who have made the journey by road.

The city is home to 180 different nationalities.

“This is the season when bargain basement prices in Dubai could beat [prices in] Hong Kong and Singapore, hands down,” says Kiran Chhabria of Jumbo Electronics.

The raffle draws are unheard of — three Lexus luxury cars are raffled off everyday (with a grand cash prize of Dh10 million). Shoppers also qualify for the daily raffle of Nissan cars, while gold aficionados who spend Dh500 at outlets of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group get the chance to win 1 kg of gold on a daily basis during the festival’s 32 days.
People who buy a commemorative gold coin for Dh250 are entitled to win 5 kg of gold weekly and 100 kg of gold (worth Dh5 million) at the grand draw.
On the first day, Abdullah Ebrahim Al Baik, a two-year-old Palestinian boy, struck it rich for his family when he won three Lexus cars — valued at more than Dh500,000.

A testimony to Dubai’s open embrace of diversity can be seen in the 900 or so outfits in the Media City free-zone (including CNN, BBC and Asharq Al Awsat). There are thousands of other companies in the free zones dealing with aviation, manufacturing, internet, shipping, health and humanitarian aid.

Yesterday, General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, announced a new initiative to open a biotech zone.
When it comes to the media, Dubai has evolved a mindset that sets it apart in a world that often only sees news when there is blood on the streets. When the local media reported toilets at Global Village needed repairs and the traffic around the Village had caused four-hour road jams, the organisers and the police did not kill the messenger; they got the message.
Defective toilets were closed for repairs and mobile units were installed in no time. Rank-and-file police officers offered solutions to traffic problems and considered proposals from the public.

Since then, the flow of traffic to the Global Village has improved immensely.

“Dubai is not just a city, it is a feeling, an experience. Everyone who has a good idea to offer is recognised here, not punished or sidelined,” said Ayad Abbas, an Iraqi-Canadian engineer and an expert in total quality management. “That’s the only way to go forward.”

Rewarding good ideas is a practise started by the late Shaikh Rashid, founder of modern Dubai and father of the current rulers, who gave land to Christians working in the emirate on which they built churches.

During the festival, the best cultural groups in the world — from Kenya’s Waza Africa team and Bayanihan Dance Company of the Philippines to Bollywood stars, top-class jazz musicians and native Maoris dancers — descend upon the city in a scintillating masala of cultures unseen anywhere else.

Also in town are sculptors, craftsmen and visual artists from different parts of the world, who turn some parts of the city, such as Diyafa Road, Al Seef Street and the Heritage Village into virtual open-air galleries.


Though most visitors come from neighbouring GCC countries, an increasing number of Europeans, Iranians, Iraqis, Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese and other East Asians are also coming, according to the Dubai Commerce and Tourism Marketing, the government’s main tourism-promotion arm.

On regular days, Dubai gets about 40,000 tourists per day. This shot up to 96,875 per day during DSF 2004, according to Dubai’s immigration department.
This year, officials expect the numbers to increase further. Visitors to Dubai, especially families coming in for the festival, are welcomed at the airport by a multinational group of 100-plus volunteers that speak 37 different languages.
“Most of the expatriates who come here finds the city’s well-paved streets, charming buildings and top-class infrastructure a pleasurable experience,” said Vicky Elabd, a Westerner who lives in Dubai, as she checked out paintings of Iraqi artists at their national pavilion in Global Village.

Because women are allowed to drive here, many Saudi women have quietly moved to Dubai.

“The UAE enriches its own culture by embracing others,” K. Suleiman, a Saudi office manager who works here.

Khalid Al Shami, an accountant from Al Ahsa, in eastern Saudi Arabia, recently took 10 members of family for a week-long vacation to Dubai.
“I’ve been here five times before. The cityscape keeps on changing with each visit. Dubai is a city without fear of trying new ideas,” said Al Shami.

When Dubai opened its property sector to foreign ownership under the freehold scheme in 2002, the move raised some eyebrows among some of its neighbours.

By throwing in a residence visa with every freehold property bought, the emirate has virtually given a second citizenship to any foreign buyer.

Dubai has become an example of how a country can be transformed in one generation. Its oil trade now accounts for less than 10 percent of its GDP.
Many people outside the UAE still can’t believe the much-publicised Palm Islands project.
What they don’t realise, however, is that in addition to the first one, Palm Island Jumeirah, Dubai is now building two more — Palm Islands Jebel Ali and Deira.

“Dubai just amazes me,” says Rajini Apiah, a teacher from India, who snapped up a mini DV camera and DVD recorders from Jumbo.

Not everything is perfect. The tsunami has affected Dubai’s property market, especially the seaward developments.

Still, its been reported famous football players such as David Beckham and other celebrities are bidding for a patch of the frond. With the world’s most luxurious hotel, the Burj Al Arab, Dubai is now building what is reportedly the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, expected to be completed in 2007.

Since the government has introduced “freehold” ownership in 2002, other parts of the UAE and other countries in the Gulf have followed suit, or are at least contemplating similar steps.

Top 10 DSF destinations

1. Global Village at Dubailand on the Emirates Road, with 46 national pavilions in 17.2 million sq.ft. arena. Open for 79 days (from January 12th to March 31), served by 50 buses to shuttle public from different points of Dubai to the Village (average fare is Dh2 (70¢); food has 60 restaurants and four main cafés, 75 kiosks for the retail sector, a 6,000-seat amphitheatre and a 4,000 sqm man-made lake. Products showcased range from traditional household items to furniture, foodstuff, garments, antiques, jewellery, education and universities, handicrafts and gift items, etc.

2. Al Shindagha Zone allows visitors to have a chance to learn more about the UAE and the region's heritage and culture.

3. Dubai Carnivals, which bring various DSF venues bustling with entertainment activities.

4. Night Souq offers unbeatable prices for shoppers.

5. Desert Camp, a hive of traditional activities.

6. Prizes galore - raffles for cash, cars and gold.

7. Public parks offer various interesting activities for all age groups.

8. Al Seef Road

9. Al Riqqa Road

10. Al Muraqqabat Road