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Last-minute Santas pack UAE shopping malls

The already crowded malls around the UAE were even busier this weekend with Christmas shoppers scurrying to find last-minute presents, ranging from Santa costumes to appliances for cooking traditional dishes involving ox tongue.

In the crowded aisles of Yas Mall’s Geant Supermaket, Leonanda Stegemann, a 44-year-old expat from South Africa, was examining cookers at the market’s Christmas corner.

“I’m looking for a cooker because mine broke and I need it for the Christmas dinner tonight,” said Ms Stegemann, who is planning to cook a traditional ox-tongue South African Christmas dish.

“We will be having Christmas dinner with friends, and I need to take a dish.”

Her husband, Paul, 48, was busy trying to find a Santa Claus costume, because he will be playing that role for the compound’s children.

“The other dads can’t do it, because the children will recognise their fathers,” he said.

Although the couple were quite possibly at extremes of the shopping spectrum, the South Africans were probably grateful that their Christmas list is more easily satisfied now than it was when compared with their first holiday season in the UAE nine years ago.

The sentiment was echoed by Paul Hatcher, 50, an adviser from the UK: “It is a massive difference, you had to search for Christmas things, now it’s a lot easier to buy stuff,” .

A major difference between shopping here and back home, he said, was the convenience of last-minute shopping.

“Here there are no queues, no fighting. If you go today in the UK, the line will be back all the way in the shop.

“I wouldn’t go, but people do go,” said Mr Hatcher said.

“We are shopping for the last bits and pieces, mostly presents for the stockings, just picking up what we see,” said Mrs Hatcher, 46.

Meanwhile in Dubai, Maria Fernandis, 32, and her husband David were finding the last-minute shopping less convenient as an unexpected family visit from abroad had them rushing to ­Dubai Mall to buy more gifts.

“It will be great to celebrate it with family, the more the merrier, however, shopping over the weekend and before Christmas is hectic, the mall is usually busy, but now it’s packed with families trying to find the perfect gift,” the housewife said.

Despite the rush, David, 33, is excited to have his parents celebrating Christmas in Dubai.

“It is the first time they’ve come here, usually we fly home to celebrate Easter there, but now, Christmas will be a real Christmas with our family,” said the sales executive.

In another section of the mall, Maureen Radha, 24, had one more gift left to scratch from her list and having too many ­options was definitely causing her problems.

“Our boss gave us our salaries on Thursday, earlier than usual, to be able to buy gifts.

“My parents’ gifts have been secured already, but I’ve been smelling men’s perfume since noon to pick one for my 18-year-old brother,” said the executive secretary.

Shopping at Dubai Mall was a first-time experience for American Mario Johnson, 26, who is visiting Dubai with his girlfriend.

“The mall is packed, reminded me of back home, people rushing in at the last minute to snatch a Christmas gift for their loved ones,” said the engineer.

“My girlfriend and I separated so that each could pick up a gift for Christmas, I don’t expect to see her for a few hours,” he said as he checked the size of a woman’s blouse.

He suggested, however, that last-minute shoppers factor in parking at it took him 40 minutes to find a spot at the mall.

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The National