Tuesday, February 06, 2007

There and Back Again - Part 7

While we did shopping in India, we had heard from everyone that we should hold off on doing major purchasing until we got to Dubai. This was going to be our first trip to Dubai to visit my cousin and his family who have been there for over ten years. Just a four hour flight from Bombay, Dubai is fast becoming one of the major business and entertainment hubs in Asia. What Hong Kong was for decades, Dubai is hoping to become. And if the growth and construction we saw is any benchmark by which to measure that, they are well on their way to reaching that goal. As I said, one of the major draws to Dubai as related to us by everyone who had been there was the shopping. So, keeping our wallets firmly (sort of) in pocket until we got there, we decided to hold off major shopping. It was a good thing we did.

The shopping mall has been part of my life since the very beginning. I can remember going with my family to go for an outing for some minor thing or the other, but we would then wander the mall doing window shopping and occasionally making a purchase. With the spread of suburbia there was a limit to how large a mall could be and so, our walks in some malls wouldn't last all that long. When I was told that Dubai has malls too, I was wondering what the big deal was. After all, I have been to larger malls here as well. For example, malls like Potomac Mills or Arundel Mills are quite large and take some time to cover. At nearly a mile in length, these malls do provide exercise for shoppers. However, they can't hold a candle to the malls I visited in Dubai.

The city of Dubai as it stands today was basically built out of the desert over the last decade or so. Prior to that time there were only miles and miles of arid sandy lands as far as the eye could see. To visit it now, it appears that an oasis has sprung up and in it was the city of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. At this time, my cousin estimated that there were approximately 35,000 cranes in the city constructing new malls, new high rises and new offices. A word of advice to construction workers looking for steady pay for their skilled labor. If the market around here is looking a bit slow, go to Dubai, you'll be utilized for years to come. I can only compare some of the things I saw to a full size version of Sim City. The designs of the buildings and surroundings can only be described as extrordinary and grand. Same can be said of the malls.
We visited several malls during our time there and I can tell you, more than shopping, I had fun in just visiting the malls. We visited one mall called Ibn Battuta which is named for a famous explorer from hundreds of years ago. During his travels he visited several countries in Asia including Egypt, Persia, India and China among others. Therefore, the theme of the mall bearing his name is to showcase each of the countries he visited. Divided into five or six sections, each storefront has the facade of a building from that particular country. It was like taking a trip without taking a trip. The lighting in the building was such as to highlight the time of day outside. With the ceilings painted with sky motifs, the lighting adjusted to cast the proper hue and as our afternoon gave way to evening and night, so did the lighting in the building.

We also visited the Jumerah Mall which is next to the famous Al Burj Dubai hotel. That is the hotel that looks like a large sailboat. The Jumerah mall was done up in the motif of a Moroccon marketplace. With simulated sand and stone buildings, the whole place is like an indoor outdoor market. Indeed it was like numerous trips in one. Not every mall had a motif or theme that was carried out through the building, but each and every visit was one in which there was something new to gawk at. The feeling of being on a trip within a trip within a trip was due to the fact that we were there at the time of the Dubai Shopping Festival as well. This yearly festival lasts for a month and during that time, there are sales and promotions all over Dubai. One of the popular destinations at that time is the World Market.

The World Market is a temporary area built up on the outskirts of the city and there, countries from around the world (though predominantly Asia and the Middle East) are in attendance with a large Pavillion for every country. As such, we 'visited' countries we wouldn't ordinarily visit with a US passport. It was fun not only to browse the pavillions for clothes and gift items, but also to sample the food of the various regions. There's nothing quite like food cooked by an actual person from that region. After having had so much air travel, it was nice to be able to go around the world without having to do anything other than lace up your shoes. It's true what they say, there's nothing quite like the shopping you find in Dubai.



Post a Comment

<< Home