The mall, but not as we know it.

I don’t really like shopping that much. If I need things, I will go and buy them, and that is that. I’m generally not much of a browser, and I generally wouldn’t make a day of shopping.

Going to the mall in Dubai is not like going to the mall in New Zealand.

I think people are wondering why I sound so disillusioned when I say I have to go to the mall. I’ll provide you a bit of background information on why that is.

The other day, after moving in to our apartment building, I decided I would walk to the mall. You can see it out the window! Surely it wouldn’t be that hard.

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Spoiler alert: it was.

Turns out, there is no straightforward way to get to that road in front of the Dubai Opera, where I thought I could cut through near the Burj Khalifa. So, I walked about a kilometer towards the metro to mall link bridge. Which was fine, until I realised that I couldn’t get up on to the bridge connection, and I couldn’t cross the six lane road to the mall.

I ducked into a local hotel which looked like it connected to the mall, but the elevator and stairs were blocked off. I then told a security guard that I needed to visit the spa in the hotel, and he told me to go around the front. I went around the back, got totally lost, and called a Careem (Dubai’s answer to Uber). After several phone calls back and forth with the driver who was trying to locate me (and a slight interruption from the poor security guard who was trying to herd me to my non-existent appointment at the spa), I was picked up, and paid my 20 AED to get 500m to the mall entrance, seemingly unaccessible by foot.

For obvious reasons, I now just use the metro to mall link bridge. I have since discovered I can walk back through the souk and along the road, but this seems the easiest option.

The Dubai Mall is apparently the worlds most visited shopping and entertainment destination. That sounds a little bit ambitious to me, but it still gets very busy. And the fact that it is still noticeably busy, despite hosting 12.1M square feet of shopping and entertainment, indicates how very busy it gets.

It’s about a 3KM round trip to the mall using the metro link. This involves walking to the metro station, going through just under a kilometer of moving walkways, and then traversing the final series of kiosks before you enter the mall proper. Once you are in, well, thats when the real challenge begins.

The mall is so large that you can enter your destination on an information screen, and it will spit out customised directions on where to go. We stood behind a very tired looking woman scrutinising the directions to KFC a week ago. She’d probably been searching for some K-Fry for days. I’ve been looking for a postbox since I first visited the mall about a week and a half ago. Someone please tell Nana Mac that I haven’t forgotten her, and that her postcard is finally winging its way to New Zealand (the postbox was right near the A380 simulator – silly me. That’s exactly where you would expect a postbox).

It doesn’t really matter to me that there are 70 fashion shops in the Fashion Avenue section alone, and 40 shoe stores on ‘Level Shoe’. I haven’t been into any of them. For run of the mill, household stuff, it’s not exactly the best place to shop.

That’s not to say that the actual mall is unpleasant. There are helpful concierge folk, if you can finally locate their desks in the labyrinth. There is a great (albeit expensive) Waitrose in the lower ground, and a few stores that I like to look in for everyday items (Zara, H&M, Tchibo, Daiso, Muji and Kinokuniya). One issue is the concept of landmarks. If you go to any other mall, you can use, for example, an anchor store as your base point, and figure out your destination from there. But Dubai Mall has 1200 stores, including four department stores – Bloomingdales, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Galeries Lafayette. It has an olympic sized ice skating rink, an A380 simulator, a prehistoric dinosaur fossil, a souk, a set of dancing fountains, an indoor entertainment theme park, a movie theater, a small zoo and an aquarium. There is a reason why they put those Real Housewives of Los Angeles in those ridiculous little mall cars.

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I secretly wish someone would offer me a ride in a ridiculous little mall car.

The other issue is that most of the mall looks pretty similar to the rest of it. Which is fine when you are quietly browsing, whiling away the hours. When you’ve spent 45 minutes trying to find the way out, its less enjoyable.

Dubai is an expensive place to shop, but there are bargains to be found. I managed to get some utensils at Bloomingdales for 40AED, and a table runner at 85% off from West Elm. The best part of this was that I got fancy shopping bags from those stores, in which I later hid my Daiso and Waitrose purchases (including some illicit bacon), and everyone treated me like a queen as I shopped in other stores.

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Fools, all of you. Little did you know that the medium brown bag did not contain designer items from Bloomingdales, but a whisk and a slotted spoon.

A trip around the mall that would probably have taken 25 minutes in New Zealand takes closer to 2 1/2 hours here. You get used to it, but its still a bit frustrating. Still, I managed to make it in and out without throwing a tantrum, somewhat helped by the headphones jammed in my ears playing soothing music. Definitely a good distraction.

Nikki wasn’t well yesterday, so Matt decided to come to the Dubai Opera with me. I give him credit for trying out something he probably wouldn’t have been particularly interested in, otherwise. It was Madame Butterfly, performed by the Welsh National Opera (who knew there was such a thing!). Despite it taking a 20 minute cab ride to get there, it was a nice afternoon and a chance to get dressed up. I had forgotten to tell Matt it was in Italian, and it was – thankfully – subtitled. Mysteriously, some of the subtitles disappeared. Was the English translation too racy? Unless I sit down and read a blow by blow translation from Italian to English, I guess I’ll never know.

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Startled opera selfie!

In other news, Matt finally has a bank account open, our furnishings allowance check banked and a debit card approved. We will sit down later and decide what more furnishings will make their way from the IKEA catalogue and into our living room.

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4 thoughts on “The mall, but not as we know it.

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