Dubai Mall Rat, Part ٢
Obligatory family photo at the tallest building in the world!
So, getting back to our whirlwind Dubai tour that we embarked upon in Part ١. After Umm Suqeim Beach, we hopped back in the car and onto our next mall. It turns out we were not even in the actual city of Dubai. We were still quite a ways south from the city itself. This city is enormous! Our next stop was the Burj Khalifa. For the moment, it is the tallest building in the world. I heard that China is trying to steal that title, as I write—they are planning to build it in just 90 days, no less! Top that, Dubai. You can bet if they do, Dubai will build the next building bigger, better and faster; that seems to be how things are done here. Here are some interesting facts about the building from its website:
“At over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds the following records:
Tallest building in the world
Tallest free-standing structure in the world
Highest number of stories in the world
Highest occupied floor in the world
Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
Tallest service elevator in the world.”
We did not go to the top. You have to reserve a visit in advance, which requires planning and that is just not my forte. But, I am not sure that I want to go to the top anyway—it’s a just a little too high for my liking. This is what it looks like from the street. It’s hard to capture just how tall this building is.
Next door to the building is the Dubai Mall, which is of, of course, a titanic and expansive temple to the ever growing demands of consumerism: More, Bigger, Faster! In the Dubai Mall, you can ice-skate, buy a $15,000 scarf or Jimmy Choos, visit an aquarium or a zoo. Here is a link to a blog, called thebigfatworld, which aptly summarizes all the entertainment possibilities that lie within Dubai Mall.
Rob’s fabulous selfie to show height. I don’t do selfies, sorry.
No, I did not partake of a $15,000 scarf, though it was beyond beautiful! And, we did not visit the aquarium–there was no time. It was lunchtime. Our tour guide was hungry from walking beaches and malls. We were off to find a lunch spot, which was his favorite and he was sure it was ours as well. But first, he wanted to take us out to see the Burj Khalifa up close. We went out the observatory area outside one of the mall entrances. The Burj Khalifa is awe-inspiring from the skyline and just a ridiculous marvel of engineering up close. Again, it’s really hard to describe its height. Rob tried to capture its grandeur. He takes a wicked selfie—he might have been on the forefront of the “selfie movement” back in his early days of traveling. Here it is:
Jennifer Aniston’s Flair in Office Space!
We were all hungry after this last photo session. Our thoughtful tour guide chose our lunch spot. Well, where else would an American family want to eat but T.G.I. Fridays? Is this not as American as baseball? Now, I have not been inside a T.G.I. Fridays—since the late 80s—Market Fair Mall; Princeton, NJ. I had friends who worked there. Yes, they wore the “flair.” T.G.I. Fridays invented the whole idea of “flair,” so parodied in the movie Office Space. They do it here too. It’s just a little different. The staff was almost entirely composed of adorable, young Filipina women. Instead of buttons, they attached all kinds of small stuffed animals to their suspenders. I really wanted to take a picture of this, but they were SO busy. I have never seen waitresses move so fast. We scoured our menus. Now, some of you know I am not a fan of American food. The menu was a little different to TGIFs back home, but mostly the same artery-clogging fare. I chose something called a “Calamari Calypso salad,” which sounded like the most exotic thing on the menu.
Tired of shopping? Why not stop by the aquarium?
They move fast, but they did not often visit our table. It was bit like being in the middle of a busy bee hive—watching them move, but never seeing them stop. One very nice young girl, suspenders weighted down with stuffed pandas (obviously her favorite animal) came to wait to wait on us. She took our orders. It took an eternity, but it finally came. It was all just as you would expect. The non-Americans lapped up the American fare eagerly. The Americans all wished we had gone for Japanese, Chinese or Indian. What can you do? It is funny how my family rejects our own cuisine. I am not really sure why.
Anyway, let’s get back to shopping. When in Dubai, you do as the Dubai-dwellers do, and that means you shop. We zipped past Jimmy Choos, Louis Vitton, Pucci, Missoni, Tiffany’s—every opulent store you can imagine was there. There were even Porsche and Bentley shops that sold clothes and NOT cars! It was like walking Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, like an alternate universe of consumerism. We wandered that mall silly, so it was time for a new one. Our next destination was Festival Centre.
If I were forced to choose or really even have an opinion on this at all, I think Festival Centre was my favorite shopping center in Dubai by far. Festival Centre is on the water. There are water taxis you can take to the different parts of the mall. There are also paddle boats and kayaks for rent, if you felt the urge to shuttle yourself around the center. There was a marina outside absolutely littered with yachts. There was even a small amusement park for kids there. The girls did the bumper cars and a few rides. On our way into the shopping center, we passed a Hula lesson and a Hawaiian drum lesson occurring in the promenade, which gave this center a lovely tropical ambience. There are a lot of times that I forget that I am smack dab in the middle of a very large desert and this was another one of them. Festival Centre is Venice meets Hawaii meets Rodeo Drive because, of course, you cannot have a mall in Dubai without high-end shops. It’s just got to have a theme and ridiculously pricey stores. End of story.
We were officially getting pooped. These places are big! Walking just one mall in day is more effort than I choose to exert on shopping. Walking many is just absurd, especially when you cannot afford a single shoe in it?! It’s just crazy. Our fabulous tour guide took it upon himself to spoil our daughters that day and suggested another Coldstone ice cream. How decadent! Who were we to say no? After all, we were in Dubai. We got insanely expensive coffee drinks and the girls got more ice cream. They were over the moon with the boundless entertainment and ice cream opportunities in Dubai.
Skiing in the desert? Why not?
It was 5pm, and our tireless was still raring to go! He still had 2 more malls on the agenda for us. We graciously declined, offering that there would have to be a part two for this shopping tour of Dubai. After all, we had already visited three enormous complexes and did not have a single shopping bag in tow! Our guide was very disappointed. After all, we did not see the Mall of the Emirates, which is truly the crown jewel of Dubai malls—it is the one with the ski slope inside. I actually did want to see this place, but not today! It would have to wait.
Ibn Battuta Mall was also on the agenda for dinner. This mall is located in a part of town called Jebel Ali Village, and it is very near to our tour guide’s home. It is the largest themed mall in the entire world. Of course, it is! You are probably sensing a trend here. Here is what the website has to say about this mall and logic behind it:
The man who inspired the mall.
“The Arab traveller and adventurer Ibn Battuta was a man of great vision and strong Islamic values. He set off to journey the world at the age of 20 and soon became acknowledged as a scholar and a man of great wisdom. Today Ibn Battuta Mall is the first shopping complex inspired by an individual’s life nearly six centuries after he embarked on his renowned journey. Each region Ibn Battuta explored – Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India and China – is reflected in the architecture and theme of the mall’s six courts. These courts strongly project the historical and cultural richness of this Arabian icon’s life, serving as inspiration to all those who visit.”
A trip to Ibn Battuta supposedly inspires one to feel as though they had travelled, eaten in and seen the sights that those 6 countries offer. That sounds pretty cool to me. It would have been well worth a visit were we not exhausted, tired of shopping, sightseeing and full. I think my coffee drink had ice cream in it. I was still full from my coffee. We parted ways here and agreed to visit the rest of the sights on his itinerary on our next visit.
We left Dubai tired but eager to return. Though we are not shoppers, Dubai’s malls offer something to even the non-shopper. Much like Dubai’s temples to the skies, the malls share that inherent sense of testing what it truly considered possible. Is it possible to house a ski slope in a mall? Sure, it is! It is possible to build taller buildings and to make islands where there are none naturally? It sure is! I am living on one. I am certain that all this building that they have done in such a short time is not without consequences, but that is not something that I am exploring today. That night, we rested our feet and pondered people’s motivations. Could you really justify owning a $15,000 scarf, a gold-plated automobile or pet tiger? I couldn’t. The inherent contradictions that I referenced in my post on the Omani we met one night out, continue to vex me here. I think I am going to have to view Dubai as Americans view Las Vegas: What happens in Dubai, will have to stay there for the sake of my sanity.