I Shop, Therefore I Am

25 Oct

Avenues MallTraveling for 22 hours after  3 months of work every day without a day (or night off), five hours of Ambien induced sleep and then a day of interviews, you’d think all I want to do is return to my hotel room, have a hot bath, perhaps order up some room service (love that) and crash for the night. Yeh, me too. But really, I’m here for two nights with no guarantees I will be back so sleep will have to wait.

Upon returning to my hotel (my driver, Abu, is back!) I head over to the Concierge desk to inquire about transportation to The Avenues, one of the largest malls in the Middle East. One of the things I like about Kuwait is the ease of getting around. I don’t mean that there’s no traffic, on the contrary, afternoon rush hour here lasts pretty much from 11:00am to 7:00pm. What I’m speaking of is Drivers. Everyone, it seems, has a driver. The country, being so wealthy due to the business of oil, has a ridiculous amount of luxury vehicles on the road. Firefighters driving Porsche’s (not that they shouldn’t, mind you. After all, they save lives), 16 year olds driving Maserati’s, you name it. But many people have drivers as it employs the foreigners and, well, as each Kuwaiti citizen is given money from the government on a regular basis, much of it tends to be spent hiring people to do everyday tasks that most people in the U.S. do for themselves (Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey excluded). Hotels have drivers to bring guests (and I mean ordinary guests like me, not Donald or Oprah) to a variety of places and, since the national pastime is going to the mall, my hotel will be happy to take me.

As it’s currently 4:00 pm and the car won’t leave for the mall until 6:00, I decide to take advantage of the hotel’s gym (ok, there’s a chance I am running on pure adrenaline but, I figure, why not take advantage of it?). One hour later (okay, maybe 45 minutes, whatever), elliptical trainer and weights done, I shower and change for my trip to the mall.

Fifteen minutes later, after my driver has negotiated around the enormous amount of road construction (seriously, every road in this city seems to be under construction) I enter the mall. My driver has told me that he will pick me up at 8:30. My first thought, I don’t know if I can stay awake that long. When I walk into the mall I’m suddenly energized. It’s as if they are pumping endorphins or caffeine in through the air conditioning system. The mall is beautiful. Open spaces, bright and shiny tile floors, and a wide variety of shops and restaurants. Part of my goal tonight is to go to stores we have at home (more on that in a minute) and price items that I know the cost of at home in order to get an idea of how far my money will go when it’s Kuwaiti Dinars. I head to Bath and Bodyworks and price some Body Butter. I price shoes and clothing. I buy a nice bag of apple tea to relive memories of leading tours in Turkey as well as a box of Turkish Delight (candy) to give to friends when I return.

As I am a huge people watcher, this takes up much of my time. I notice many families walking in the mall. Many of the men are dressed in all white “sheikh” type clothing with a Keffiyeh (traditional headdress) while others are in business suits and still others (many of them teenagers or twenty-somethings) are dressed in shorts or jeans and T-shirts. The women are dressed in outfits ranging from fashionable western ensembles to full Abaya (traditional black cloak) with a Hijab (headscarf) and Niqāb (a veil which covers the face). Many women simply wear western style clothing with a colored headscarf (many have rhinestones on them which, anyone who knows me would know makes me smile as I like sparkly things). The general rule of dress is to keep your shoulders and knees covered (works well for me as I got my mom’s thighs).

Men here seem to truly enjoy being with their children. They play games with them and laugh as they walk throughout the mall. I see one man with what appears to be his wife and four daughters. I comment, “Wow, lots of girls. Good luck!” He laughs and responds, “I love girls!” It seems to me that I won’t find many men sitting on Barco Loungers in the furniture department of Sears while watching the football game.Applebees

I’m starving and walk from restaurant to restaurant trying to find a place with a nice atmosphere that has some traditional Kuwaiti food. This is harder than you might think. I pass a Dean & Deluca, Starbucks, Pinkberry, Applebees, Au Bon StarbucksPain, Benihana, Ruby Tuesday, TGI Friday’s, P.F. Chang, Pizzeria Uno, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Johnny Rockets (3 of them!) and Chile’s. Hhmmmm, perhaps this is “traditional” Kuwaiti food. I end up choosing a French Restaurant as the waiters at the entrance are charming and assure me they have one traditional Kuwaiti dish. I sit and order the traditional shrimp and rice dish as well as a “cocktail.” This brings me to something very different Auntie Anne'sfrom the U.S. Kuwait is a dry country. No alcohol here. Anyone who knows me understands that I enjoy a nice glass of red wine with dinner or perhaps a 12 year old, single malt Scotch Whiskey after a particularly hard day. This will definitely take some adjusting to. Anyway, not shying away from the subject of prohibition, this restaurant actually has a “Cocktail” Menu. I order a drink with many juices, some soda water and some Blue Curacao (which goes completely against my personal rule of not drinking anything blue out of concern for walking around looking around looking like I’m oxygen deprived).

While waiting for my meal the manager comes over to make friendly conversation. She and her husband came here from the Philippines (there’s a huge Filipino community here) and enjoy most things. She does not enjoy the six day work week (standard in Kuwait) or the strangeness of the Thursday/Friday weekend due to the Friday Muslim Holy Day. She does enjoy the company that she works for which happens to be the company I am interviewing with (no big surprise as they are they seem to own everything in Kuwait). PinkberryWe speak about the benefits of working for the company as well as the discount which employees get for all stores and restaurants that company owns (Ooh, not buying retail? This Jewish girl loves that).

My meal comes and I relax, people watch and eat. Yummm. The waiter asks how I enjoy it and I tell him it’s just as good as promised. He is happy but tells me that if I want real, traditional Kuwaiti food I should go across to Dean & Deluca. What? Are you kidding?Dean & Deluca

Before I know it it’s 8:30 and my driver is transferring me back to my hotel. Aah, bed never felt so good.

Tomorrow read Interviews, Presentations and Tours, oh my.

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9 Responses to “I Shop, Therefore I Am”

  1. rebecca2000 October 25, 2012 at 6:49 PM #

    I love that men enjoy being with their children. I love seeing the world through your eyes. 🙂

    x,
    Becca

    • Carole B. Rosenblat October 25, 2012 at 8:47 PM #

      Thanks and likewise. I love hearing about it through those voices in my head 😉

      • rebecca2000 October 25, 2012 at 8:49 PM #

        LOL well you know the voices in my head call me names, so count yourself lucky. 😉

  2. John and Andrea (@InspirngTrvlrs) October 30, 2012 at 9:41 AM #

    The shopping in the Middle East was insane -can’t wait to go back there!

    • Carole B. Rosenblat October 30, 2012 at 11:06 AM #

      I agree. I’m not really a shopper but, as it was one of the only things to do, and because I like to experience what the locals do, I went. Somehow it sucked me in and I really wanted to spend more time at the mall. The grocery store was also incredible.

  3. Greg Triggs October 30, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

    Great entries!

  4. charles myrick November 15, 2012 at 5:31 PM #

    I am really inspired together with your writing skills and also with the format for your blog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize it your self? Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s rare to look a great weblog like this one today..

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Kuwait Just a Minute | My Own Adventure - November 9, 2013

    […] Tonight, a trip to the mall. Read about it in I Shop, Therefore I Am […]

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