Dan and I spent three days in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as part of our honeymoon in Aug/Sep 2004. I remember it as being 115 degrees fahrenheit and the land of malls. Our second trip was less enthusiastic on our parts, but since it was a free stop on our flight path, we decided that it was worth another two days to show our children. Thankfully, the temps were under 100, allowing us to actually WALK outside, but once again we found ourselves in malls for the duration of our stay.
In truth, we had some necessary shopping to do. I had made the mistake of buying too-tight running shoes for the trip, and had been suffering a cramped toe box for almost two months of our trip. After searching store after store and trying on almost a dozen pairs, I finally settled on a pair of Adidas at the ridiculous cost of $160. This expenditure hurt my heart, but I justified the cost since I only have two pairs of shoes for an entire year of travel. It’s a decision my feet don’t regret, despite being a major ouch of the pocketbook variety. We were also able to visit a mega-bookstore and purchase an India guidebook brick and some study workbooks for the kids.
How to explain a Dubai mall? It is a shopping experience like no other. There are massive malls all over the city, that cater to every budget. This is where people go to stroll, people watch, dine and drink, see movies, work out, salon & spa, stock up on groceries, and shop for pedestrian to luxury goods. It is also an escape from the heat! Each galleria vies for your patronage with wild attractions, like theme parks, aquariums, a dinosaur exhibit, elaborate golden souks, large sculptural displays, light water shows, and shiny, new architecture. Although we saw the tallest skyscraper in the world, Al Burj Khalifa, from the outside, we declined the AED 125 – 500/ $34 – $136 ticket to the top (price range depends on how high you go).
We ate our first burrito in months, and had a hamburger and fries at Five Guys. It was surreal to say the least. The Dubai Mall was particularly posh. I tried not to stare at the wealthy sheiks in their crisp white robes (dishdash), head scarf (keffiyeh & agal), and shiny gold watches, accompanied by their completely covered women, in inky black robe and full veil (abaya & hijab) and sometimes a niqab, which covers the mouth and nose, going in and out of luxury stores. Opulence could be seen everywhere, which both fascinated and repulsed me. Once again, I was fighting the consumer in me. Stella and Gabriel were growing greedier by the minute, as they begged for more rides at the game parks, and sweet treats at every step.
It was like being in a casino with no windows, where you lose track of the time. At the end of our short stay, we were frankly gobsmacked by how much time we had whiled away in malls. Did we fail Dubai again, or is this really what the city is about?…