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Published: August 20th 2015
Desperate now for both food and replenishment of our water we wondered what to do. Once more we looked at the map and saw a station called 'Dubai Mall'. We hadn't particularly wanted to enter one of the Temples of Consumerism so early in the day but we didn't really have a choice as there was nowhere else on the map we could rely upon meeting our needs.
We emerged from the metro about 15 stations later and the first thing we noticed was that the people around us were a much more diverse mixture. Some people were even wearing quite liberal dress. We walked down an extremely long tube which offered us views of the city. We were walking for about quarter of an hour before we saw our first shop. It was just after 10 o'clock and the shops were only just starting to open. We followed signs for the food court and found every kind of European, American and Oriental cuisine imaginable. We chose a Thai restaurant but they wouldn't serve us for another 10 minutes so we waited. Eventually we got our food which was of extremely poor quality. We were very hungry though so we
ate it very quickly.
Fortified by our meal we descended into the mall. It very quickly became apparent that it's sole purpose was to extract every penny possible from the pockets of Western tourists. The shops were an eclectic mix from Bloomingdales to Galleries LaFayette to Debenham's and Marks & Spencer's. There was even a Ben's cookies which we were very excited to see. The sight of four white-robed Arab men queued at Ben's was quite entertaining for me. One really interesting thing was a sweet shop with a 'sushi bar'. It looked just like a sushi bar with the conveyor belt and chefs preparing sushi shaped sweets out of extruded sugar. Other 'attractions' of the mall included an aquarium and an indoor waterfall.
Having failed twice already to explore Dubai we decided we needed to spend as much time as possible in the mall. This decision was reinforced when we wandered out of the mall to get some photos of the Burj Khalifa at about 1 o'clock. I could stand in the sun for less than 2 minutes before my skin started blistering. Neither of us had ever experienced anything like it. We wandered around the shops
but didn't buy much.
Disappointingly, there were very few Arabic shops so we missed out on that cultural experience. What was interesting was seeing the locals interacting in the mall. I was very surprised to see how affectionate Arabic men were with their children. I had naïvely assumed that, given the prohibition on public displays of affection and the emphasis on traditional gender roles, fathers wouldn't have much time for their children. That was really not the case though, sometimes they seemed more affectionate than their wives. I was also struck by the dignity of the men in their traditional dress - they walked with a real poise and almost grandeur. Occasionally I did feel that they had some disdain for tourists but I may have imagined that.
We wandered through the mall until about 5 o'clock and then went to the Waitrose supermarket. This was an experience - so much of it was so British but there were some local products too. We bought a herby flat-bread to try along with some fruit. We also bought a box of local sweets as a present for the family in South Africa. We then went into the lower section
of the mall where we had seen advertised that there would be some Arabic music at 6pm. We had a picnic of the food we had bought and waited for the music. A trio appeared on a small stage with a violin, a tambourine and a local instrument composed of strings and pegs. I found their music quite discordant but was glad I had listened to it. I would have really liked to know what it meant to those playing it.
We had decided that as we hadn't got to see much of Dubai we were going to go up the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. It cost us about £50 to go up to 125th floor. From the top we could see large parts of the city. It was really impressive to see skyscrapers which from the ground are imposing monoliths looking like toys from so high in the air. I was surprised how much of Dubai was green, it must require a lot of water to keep it like that. We could see dusty roads leading to the horizon, lined with a wide variety of architectural wonders. The haze hanging over the city made it look
a little like an apocalyptic scene. It was still very hot when we went out onto the viewing deck but it was just about bearable. The sun was starting to set and we were completely exhausted. We spent as much time as our tired bodies could bear there and then descended again in the lift which travelled at a rate of three floors per second. My ears popped three times as we descended.
When we had returned to the ground we left the mall and returned to the airport. We snacked on the remainder of our food and then checked in for our flight. It was about 8 o'clock and we were almost unconscious with tiredness, our bodies ached and we just wanted to lie down. We found some reclining seats and dozed fitfully. After a few hours we had to move as people were boarding a flight around us. We went closer to our gate and sat again. Here I was really annoyed by a family with three children. Strangely though it wasn't the children that infuriated me... The parents were the worst I have ever seen. They lectured their child for drinking a bottle of water, stifled
them at every occasion and discouraged them from asking questions. I wanted to intervene but I kept my temper in check.
Eventually our flight was called and with relief we boarded. We had survived our day in Dubai. I am really glad we did it because it gave such an insight into a very different place and a very different culture. I have no intention of returning if I can possibly avoid it. The actual place is almost completely inhospitable and I found much of it quite unpleasant. I couldn't reconcile the strict adherence to Muslim ethics with the raw consumerism of the mall, where anything goes, which seems to mock those adhering to those ethics.
When we got to our seat we gave each other a big hug which was quite a thrill after not even being able to hold hands all day. We were flying to Lindsey's home city and about to see her family for the first time in months.
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