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Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Two Days in Dubai - Page 2

Written by Karen Elowitt
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Often called the “Las Vegas of the Middle East,” Dubai is a place where I’d heard it was possible to spend a lot of time and money indulging every worldly desire; including shopping, dining, sightseeing, pampering, even indoor skiing. All of which sounds exciting, but I was only planning a quick, shoestring trip to a few places around the world. My only indulgences would be to do an occasional load of laundry and maybe buy some chic French cigarettes. So when my travel agent suggested stopping over in Dubai for a couple of days


After I unpacked my bags in my fourth-floor room, I went out onto my tiny balcony and surveyed the scene below. Out in the sweltering smog-filled city, I could faintly hear the call of the muezzin rise above the din of a thousand car horns honking. Off in the distance I saw gleaming multi-million dollar shopping malls erupt from the vast camel-studded desert.


After a short nap I cleaned myself up and ventured into the street, determined to see some sights and get some local grub.


The oppressive heat (close to 38°C/100°F) meant that I would have to forego my usual routine of exploring the whole city on foot the first day; then deciding which places to go back to and spend more time at the second day. I knew that taking this approach would result in me ending up either severely heat stroked, or severely sunburned, or probably both.


So with the advice of the unfailingly helpful hotel staff, I picked a few air-conditioned spots in advance, and then took an air-conditioned taxi ride between destinations. At first I felt guilty at my heat-avoiding tendencies, but I quickly discovered that even the locals prefer to spend as much time as possible indoors.


First stop was the world-famous gold souk (marketplace), which was not far from my hotel. In this giant bazaar, hundreds of merchants hawk one item and one item only – gold jewelry. Since my limited budget made buying anything out of the question, I just took a “look-but-don’t-touch” approach, and hungrily consumed the gold with my eyeballs only.


If you are strong enough to indulging in this kind of rampant window-shopping without temptation to buy, Dubai is an excellent place to visit. I learned during my all-too-brief stint there that shopping is probably the most popular activity in Dubai. And there are plenty of places to practice. In addition to the gold souk, there are something like 33 indoor shopping malls, plus a number of shopping streets (to call them “high streets” would be a bit of a stretch).


DubaiThough I only visited a few of the malls, I learned that they each have a slightly different feel, but each one in its own way is a perfect microcosm of the country. On the one hand they reflect a modern 21st century cosmopolitan society, but streaks of its traditional Muslim heritage peek out all over the place.


The first mall I went to was a conventional “American-style” complex, complete with chain stores, food court, and cinema multi-plex, albeit with some local touches that you definitely don’t see back home. Rich Arab women, with eyes peeking out of drapy black veils, blabbed on cell phones while shopping for the latest Prada handbag. They handed over their money to scruffy migrant workers with humble origins in India, Africa, and the Philippines. Prayer rooms were tucked into each level, alongside the restrooms and baby-changing rooms. Arab customer service staff in flowing white robes spoke fluent English while assisting customers from all over the world. The food court served everything from sushi to shawarma, but you couldn’t find moo-shu pork on any menu.


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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