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  • Writer's pictureLiz Totton

Dubai Mall Rat, Part ١

Mean Girls

This is how I envision my mall rat years. But, in reality, That’s LA. We were Jersey!

You would think that a Jersey girl, such as myself, could be air dropped into just about any mall anywhere in the world and find her way around?! You would then surmise that I would be all over living in a country that takes their malls seriously, and I mean seriously! Try skiing, ice-skating, visiting an aquarium or water park and water-taxing from shop to shop in your local mall. Imagine a mall with every opulent store and restaurant you can dream of and NEVER, EVER afford. Imagine a mall so big; it would take you a few days to explore the whole thing. You would think this would be a dream come true. You would be DEAD WRONG! Hate them like the plague. These days, I regard shopping as something you have to do like cleaning, but it isn’t very interesting and should therefore be done alone and never, ever discussed socially. But that’s just me.

That is now, but it wasn’t back in the 80s. In New Jersey when I was coming of age, folks who frequented malls were known as “mall rats.” Maybe this was true in all of the US. I was kind of one. On a Saturday afternoons and evenings with friends, I remember making my hair about as big as it could stand in the front, which wasn’t very big because my hair is as straight as hair could possibly be. There is just not enough aqua net in the world to get my hair to do much else besides lie flat.

Jersey Shore

A lot of them maybe looked something like this. Eww!

That’s all right. I am not and never was very froofy*. Still, I knew my way around the Quakerbridge Mall. It was not that hard to navigate. It had two floors. It had a Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Sears and an AMC movie theater. In retrospect, it was nothing special at all, but we loved it because my friends and I were 15. Our parents left us there to see a movie, shop, walk around, ogle boys from God only knows where in New Jersey, and EWWWW—that can be dangerous in Jersey! If you’ve seen The Jersey Shore or maybe just heard of it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you’re lucky! Don’t put it in your Netflix queue out of curiosity, and blame me.

So, getting back to the malls of Dubai… I doubt any of you were all that interested in my eighties’ mall escapades anyway–I buried them nearly three decades ago happily. The week before last was a weeklong national holiday for Eid Mubarak (I am told it’s the equivalent of our Christmas to muslims, but I am not sure how accurate that is). Score! How often do you get a weeklong holiday in the states? Never, ever! How did I end up spending this nice long holiday visiting malls in two cities? Dunno. It just sort of happened that way. An old friend of Rob’s planned our first visit to Dubai. He wanted to give us a tour of his adopted home and to show us absolutely everything. He had the whole day planned out. We did not know it as we drove north to Dubai excitedly, but we were scheduled to visit just about every mall in Dubai! We were happy to entertain his vision; after all, it’s his city, not ours. As a rule, I enjoy getting a local’s tour of his/her city, even if many of the sights might not be on an itinerary I might create for us. Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised.

We are not really into shopping, but Dubai malls are still worth a visit. To call Dubai malls over the top is a bit of an understatement. They are enormous, labyrinthine shrines to consumerism. If shopping were a religion (and for many it is), Dubai would be shopping’s holiest city. They have invested what seems like a gazillion dollars to make shopping in Dubai the Middle Eastern equivalent of gambling in Las Vegas. It’s really not that different, it just doesn’t involve alcohol or debauchery in Dubai, and you unfortunately remember every last detail about your shopping adventures. I know I do.

Palm Atlantis

Behold the majestic Palm Atlantis! It was actually pretty amazing in person.

Coldstone Ice Cream

Ice Cream in the morning?! How decadent!

Our first stop was a resort (hotel, mall, aquarium, water park, you name it, it’s there) called the Palm Atlantis. It is modeled after the one in the Bahamas, but it is, of course, bigger and better! It is located directly at the top of the man made islands built in Dubai that are shaped like a palm tree. This alone would be an awe-inspiring enough feat of modern engineering until you see what they built upon it. The hotel alone is enormous. If you like resorts that have everything on premises, this one’s for you. There is scuba diving, shopping, a waterpark, an aquarium, a movie theater, 19 restaurants ranging from Nobu to burger and fries and even a helicopter service in case you are in too much of a rush to fight traffic getting into the city. It was too early for lunch and we were just touring the hotel so we, of course, stopped at what looked like your average Coldstone Creamery ice cream shop for ice cream. It turned out to be ice cream delivered with a smile and a song, dance and ice cream-slinging show. You don’t see that every day. It was an ice cream celebration!

Family at Sailboat hotel

Family photo outside the Burj Al Arab Hotel. Minus camera guy, Rob.

We continued to tour the opulent residences, beaches and hotels that are near the Palm Jumeriah, including the Burj Al Arab. You’ve probably seen this place before in photos or on the Travel Channel. It is the apparently the only “7 star” hotel, and it is shaped like a sailboat. Luxurious hotels do not much for me, but this one was much cooler in person. Because it costs mucho dirham to even walk in and have a look, I may never see the inside, and I am way too frugal to indulge in a $300 plate and a $60 dessert. Fine dining is usually lost on me anyway. I’d rather cook it myself the way I like it. Apparently kids 12 and under are not allowed there for dinner, so it’s not much of a family spot either. Having said that, I do understand the appeal of a kidless dinner.

The Burj Al Arab also houses a restaurant called Mahara. If fine dining surrounded by tropical fish and tranquil, warm sea sounds attractive to you, this is your place. The menu, while very expensive, looks great. We stopped by a beach called, Umm Suqeim, which was hopping. There were swimmers, paddle boarders, surfers (surfing nothing sadly). I really love a city beach. We relished the still very warm sea air for a few moments before we headed to the Burj Khalifa and the Mall of Dubai. Stay Tuned for Dubal Mall Rat, Part ٢ (a.k.a. Tales of 1,001 Malls)…

* Thank you Urban Dictionary for being able to define all these words that I use as an American that are not really words at all, i.e. they are not “dictionary words.” I bet many of you know what I mean when I say them, but others don’t. I am learning here, in Abu Dhabi, to choose my words very carefully no matter whom I am speaking to because miscommunication is very easy here. 

#BurjAlArab #MeanGirls #MalloftheEmirates #JerseyShore #BurjKhalifa #PalmJumeriah #MallofDubai #DubaiMarinaMall #FestivalCentre #PalmAtlantis #DiscoveryGardens #IbnBattutaMall

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