I spotted them lining the highways and I was reminded of the tourist pull of Dubai; huge advertising boards showing off glistening land-cruisers, luxury brand watches and designer perfumes. Dubai is a shopping haven for tourists, first and foremost.
I was armed with a shopping list of items I couldn’t find easily in India. Once I was settled into my friend’s place, I enquired about the best mall to visit, among the variety on offer. If you’ve got time to visit only one shopping mall in the city, Dubai Mall is it. It claims to be the largest shopping mall in the world. I was easily lost in the massive expanse of over a thousand retailers and unique attractions, all under one roof. Thankfully, there were information points to politely guide me around. Sofas dotted the entire mall and easy listening music kept any potential shopping rage to a minimum. I was beginning to understand what people meant when they referred to a visit to Dubai’s malls as a ‘shopping experience.’ I was surrounded by luxury and comfort. More important, I was able to find everything on my shopping list!
I quickly learned that if I wanted to avoid crowds of screaming kids and jostling tour groups I’d be better off visiting the mall on a weekday morning. The Dubai fountain was a treat, with the synchronised choreography of water jets moving to a piece of music. Also, the waterfront was a great place to sit and people-watch in the evening, when the temperature cooled down. From the waterfront, I enjoyed the stunning view of the Burj Al-Khalifa up-close, its uppermost point piercing the sky. At 829 metres high, it’s the world’s tallest building.
Dubai is littered with immigrants and it’s obvious to see that they prop up the economy. Filipinos and Indians dominated the customer service scene. I even spotted a few Emirati women working in the 68,000 sq ft Kinokuniya bookstore. I found this unusual because until that point I’d only seen Emirati women swanning around the mall in stylish headveils and burkahs, with perfectly made-up faces and toting the latest designer bags, jewellery and shoes. The men wore white dishdashas and stood out, with perfectly groomed beards, faces and polished designer shoes. The parking lot was full of luxury cars and it was common to spot Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos parked there or zooming down the highways. There’s a state rule that all cars in Dubai have to be washed to be seen in public. It reflects a certain pride that the Emiratis have, I suppose, in their appearance and in their country.