From Beirut to the Burj: Diamond in Dubai
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 28, 2007
I have been spending the past few days in Dubai, one of the few Gulf cities I have never visited before. The city is fascinating – and in many ways I think I find it more intriguing coming from Beirut than coming from anywhere else.
Dubai to me is what Beirut could have been – the dynamic hub linking the Middle East to the rest of the world. Certainly it has a number of boondoggle projects, but on the whole … the energy is different here.
And so is the shopping. Yesterday afternoon I took a few hours off to visit the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai’s most famous mall. There are some big diamonds there.
I wasn’t interested in skiing – what I really needed were bath towels, which I found at the Carrefour – a massive, Wal-mart like shop with a full grocery store.
As I walked through Carrefour’s aisles, I began feeling rather … Syrian.
I love Syria, and I love Syrians. However, I also recognize the classic Syrian-in-Lebanon experience: big eyed, open-mouthed wandering through Beirut’s magic streets, marveling at the glamorous people and the incredible array of things to buy.
I’m American – I grew up with malls. However, after a few months in Beirut, coming to Dubai made me equally big eyed and open-mouthed. It wasn’t merely the variety of brands and styles of things available – it was the prices.
In Beirut, everything normal (including bath towels) is unnecessarily expensive – or of lesser quality – than in the US. Although the Mall of the Emirates certainly had fewer sale items than American malls, it did have a very American feel – and very American pricing.
As I shopped my shami way through the mall’s stores, a few Middle Eastern moments did keep me grounded enough to remember that I was in Dubai and not downtown Seattle.
I finally bought the launch copy of Harper’s Bazaar. When the cashier ran it through the scanner, it came up as Harper’s Bizarre. Well, fashion is a little bizarre sometimes – and so is Arabic English.
I also stopped at a pharmacy to pick up another over-the-counter prescription medication. (It may sound like I am quite the sickly one but these two pharmacy visits are total anomalies. Usually I am in embarrassingly good health.)
Would you like the three capsule option or the ten? the pharmacist asked me.
Oh, the three, I replied, thinking: better to get it over with quickly.
We do not have the three capsule option, he told me firmly.
Right, I thought. So why offer it then?