Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Shopping Mall Stories

I was at Festival City with friends this afternoon, looking for a nice evening gown for a friends wedding.
It is such a drag to try on dresses, taking of your clothes, putting on others, messing your hair up, taking of your shoes, stepping out of the changing room to show your friends, stepping back in, trying to judge whether it is worth the price tag it is attached too, what would mother think of it, would she tell me her famous statement "I used to buy this material to line the dresses I used to make for you, such low class material, what happened to the fashion sense these days, does everybody have to dress cheap to look normal". Well this was a CH dress, not so fancy but not boring either. I left it and decided today was not a good shopping day after all.

Shopping or just going to the mall is such a fascinating experience. You don't need to spend a penny to enjoy it and let me tell you, it teaches you alot of things about the demographics of this country.

The majority are Indians ofcourse, then comes the Pakistanis and then the Philipinos, then comes the blonde sector and finally the Arabs, last not least the gulf areas and the locals.

Back in the old days, when a local girl/woman passes by a crowd of men, all of them would automatically give way. Now, you will either have to say "secuse me" 100 times or just choose an alternative route, which I usually avoid doing. I secuse myself though the crowd, making sure they hear me say "men these days have no respect".

While I was on the escalator I saw an ugly blonde man in a Hawaiian style shirt standing next to a red haired woman who apparently had some kind of phobia of her behind falling off, and I guess him being the gentleman, he kept holding it for her (awwwwwwwwwwww). I watched that medical maneuver and expected that she would get a prize at the end of this never ending ride. She did, it was a French kind of prize, that I have seen been exchanged in some movies. If my mother was there, she would have given them a lecture about respecting other people's country, etc etc. Once she approached this Russian looking couple (who turned out to be Russian really) who were Frenching (this would be my official word for that kind of activity), and she told him "you should respect the country you are living in" so he simply responded "do you respect Russia". I laughed so hard I could not keep a straight mad woman face anymore, so I said, "this is the UAE, when we go to Russia, we respect Russia".

Anyways, a local mother of three wearing the Niqab (the face cover which is famously known by our beloved non racist expats by the Ninja gear) approached them, and pulled out her cell phone where she apparently have video taped the whole medical procedure and told them that that was not acceptable in a Muslim country and that they should at least respect the feelings of the local people, the man brushed her off and walked right to Mexican restaurant, while his red haired fairy told the Niqabi woman that she was oppressed and should try to see the world without the mask "maybe you will understand and realize what you are missing out", then just before she stood by her husband who was now rubbing his belly she threatened to call the police if the Niqabi "harassed" her again.

If it wasn't for the high heel shoes, that was giving me headaches and backaches, I would have rescued Ninja. But I was too tired and had no faith in our system to resolve such issues without having to take of my shoes and throwing it at the couple as a sign of protest.

So I made my way to the prayer room and prayed that I will bump into Mr/Mrs. right who will do something about this craziness.

If that Frenching incident happened in France, where a Niqabi woman was looked at as someone who is repressed, oppressed (or both) who wished for a better life than that of a woman behind the vail, I would completely understand the red haired woman's reaction. But here, in my country.

No. But maybe that's just me.


rosh said...

"The majority are Indians ofcourse, then comes the Pakistanis and then the Philipinos, then comes ..."

Yeah, that's just the demographics. Demogrpahics don't actually tell the *kind* of people in a country, like the UAE. Just because someone looks Indian or Pakistiani doesn't mean their ways of life, thought processes etc are similar.

Note: don't assume to judge a book by it's cover :)

As for those Russian couples - I feel for you. It's quite unfortunate. UAE perhaps was the world's best kept secret - safety, security, peace, decent ways of life an' all. It's something else today, and you folks are kinda lost in the whirlpool. That said, I wouldn't place all blame on those Russians, some of that blame should go on DXB tourism ministers and government.

Conchi said...

Dear Emaratiyah,

You see, in my opinion, you are treating everything in a way too simple manner; everything is much more related than you estate, but I guess that, of course, this is a blog, not a full thesis or a book to expand one's opinion or point of view.

I completely and fully understand, believe me, your point of view about the "expats" (in some circles, that therm is or was used despectively when talking about people that have been legaly thrown out of their home countries, so I will refer to them as "foreigners" from now on, hope you don't mind!). But I have to confess, I have seen the way Dubai and its life is "sold" to them.

Gulf, UAE national companies and businesses keep reaching out for workers, hoping for "caucasians", western or occidental (including Auzzies, Southafricans, Southamericans, etc) people to join in their companies and come to work and live in Dubai. Those foreign workers' points of view about Dubai/UAE, at first, are quite simple: Middle Eastern country trying (and successfully managing) not only to catch up with "the West" but to jump right ahead of it, with a Muslim mind, culture and religious law. Their information, at first, is about a place where a person (either man or woman) is not "alowed" (or at least not supposed to) "show flesh" or even the hair for women, show affection in public (no couples kissing or holding hands, etc), a place where sex out of wedlock and homosexuality are illegal ("gay" marriages are performed in several countries in Europe, hence taken as a completely normal sexual choice) and where a woman cannot be seen in public with a man who is not a member of her family; all of this sort of in the Saudi line. Some think, women in a Muslim country are worth nothing, and they are not even alowed to order in a restaurant, can be exchanged for goats or camels, lapidated or killed if adultery (and sometimes even rape) takes place, and must walk 10-15 steps behind the man they are accompaining.

We have to understand here, there are many Muslim countries with very different kinds of behaviour, and "westerns" love drama (as you probably know if you ever watched CNN hehe) and the confusion can be taken as "understandable".

Now, this company comes and offers them a good job they'd love to do, and tells them how Dubai is, basically, a Middle Eastern New York, coloured with some dish-dashas and abayas.
They sell them the "in Dubai, everything is possible" slogan.
They tell them straight away about the alcohol license, the bars, the clubbing, that the locals are minority.

The western soon-to-be-workers accept, delighted. They come to Dubai expecting to find exactly that, a Middle Eastern New York with permanent good weather. They behave like they would at home.
Then, quite understandably under my point of view, people like you and maybe friend BuJassem get offended by the foreigners' behaviour, and this is understood by them as a proof of, how to say, being 400 years behind in History, women being repressed and opressed, etc etc. Also, as the locals ARE minority here, they are not the normal "look" that they get off Dubai, but the bars and the clubbing.

Are the locals to blame? I don't think so. They (you), I presume, enjoy the 21st century way of living, but everybody likes to keep their own country for themselves. It is contradictory though. Think of a man with a huge garden. He likes the grass to be clean cut and freshly watered every week, but he loathes the sight of the gardener, however the latter is necessary... But we understand that that doesn't give the gardener the right to show up uninvited for our barbeque parties.

Are the foreigners to blame then? I don't think so either. They hold the very legitimate "if you don't want me here why did you ever bring me" line. And, what can anyone say, they are right. Also, if they know how life is meant to be in Dubai and don't like it, nobody is forcing them to stay either.

I would say it is a bit of a love-hate relationship. Of course, there are always extreme situations for everything, anyhow I rather look at the average general behaviour.

What do you think?

P.S.: Nearly all the foreigners I know use many Arabic words in their speech...

Sorry for the long post!