The first time I managed to actually get into Mall of the Emirates, I braved several lanes of traffic that didn't bother to slow down or even remotely give a fuck in terms of allowing me safe passage. As previously complained about, getting around Dubai is a nightmare as a pedestrian. Crosswalks don't exist, but even if they did, I'm not sure drivers would actually stop. Which, come to think of it, isn't that different from where I live now. Moot point, then. But I've been to many cities where traffic was chaos. The difference here and with, say, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is that in other cities I've felt like an obstacle to overcome by the driver. In Dubai, I felt like a major inconvenience to all.
Mall of the Emirates is like any mall, really. There is a food court with fast food chains from all over the world. There are numerous fast fashion brands offering economical options to contrast the high-end boutiques filled with the latest Parisian creations. The only difference is the massive indoor ski hill, which is uniquely one-of-a-kind (they didn't honour the free pass my hotel gave me, so regrettably – and bitterly – there won't be any review). The anchor store at Mall of the Emirates is Carrefour, which is basically a French Wal-Mart. It definitely had the most foot traffic in terms of foreigners, both expat and tourist. This is also where I spent most of my time and coins stocking up on uniquely flavoured potato chips, souvenirs and books. At check-out, I received a coupon for 50% off plastic surgery at a local clinic. It was rather odd but not entirely surprising. Dubai is one of the most superficial places I've ever visited.
On the way out of the mall, I ran into several men trying to sell me an iPhone 6. As I said "no, thank you" to one, another would pop up. I wasn't really bothered. My mind was focused on why they were there though; it became apparent that my earlier route of jay-walking across several lanes of busy, high-speed traffic WAS the only way into the mall and that it why they congregated there.
DID YOU KNOW?
An unwashed vehicle in the U.A.E. will be subject to a dh500 fine (approximately $200 CDN).
Hanging clothes from one's balcony will be subject to a dh500 - dh1500 fine (approximately $600 CDN).
Eating, drinking or chewing gum on public transport will be subject to a dh100 fine (approximately $35 CDN).
After a week that went by in a flash, my friend departed back to Canada. It was bittersweet. I normally travel solo and was looking forward to the adventure my subsequent time alone would bring, but she also brought a je ne sais quoi to the journey that I otherwise wouldn't have had. This was her first international excursion. A major one too. While Dubai had its challenges, her curiosity and genuine excitement at experiencing new things allowed me to view things in a different way as well. We may be polar opposites, but our perspectives are complementary.
At the metro station near our hotel, we exchanged a hug and she gave me her parting words:
"Don't worry. You look like a journalist."
In a country where women's rights and freedom of speech are often called into question, this wasn't entirely reassuring.