What do you think this is?
What does it do?
Closer....come closer...and see.
It appears to be...
A BABY WASHER!!
(how do you suppose that works?)
Just another of the amusing things one can find at Lu Lu’s market: the Fred Meyer of Al Wahda Mall. The mall is “across the street” from our office/apartment building. The street it is across is a six lane boulevard with median. To get to it we walk to the middle of our block, enter an unairconditioned pedestrian underpass, pop out on the other side in front of the mall, walk through “the pizza oven” (a corridor through the parking garage that pops out into the mall). The route is about ¼ mile each way. The walk from our office to the entrance of the pedestrian tunnel takes us past some interesting businesses:
- There is the tiny convenience store where we buy our 5-litre bottles of water (cost about $1 US). Here they also have a decent assortment of vegetables and other staples. But the only thing we buy here is water and an occasional piece of chocolate. Can’t buy that at the mall because it would melt before we got it home. From this little store it only partially melts by the time we get home.
- We pass by a Pakistani grill of some sort. It looks like a popular place. It also looks very hot. There is a big open charcoal grill we can see from the window. Though the food may be good we are not checking it out. It is packed with Pakistanis. Let me think how to put this delicately. There can be a problem with strong body odor in this heat. It doesn’t seem to bother some folks as much as others. Many Pakistanis are accustomed to this affect and it doesn’t seem to bother them and so they don’t keep on top of it. Let’s just say that the thought of being in an enclosed restaurant crowded with these folks cancels out the desire to check out the food. You follow?
- There is a hookah pipe store. That’s right. A head shop. While alcohol and pork are forbidden, the locals do smoke water pipes. Just tobacco. No funny stuff. At least not that I’m aware of. There are restaurants with lounges foggy from all the hookah pipe smoke. It is a communal thing. The women smoke it as well as the men. The women that are allowed to commune with the men in public that is. I would like to partake of it. Not so much for the buzz but for the picture, you know. I haven’t had a picture with a hookah pipe since college! Anyway, this smoke is a large space just crammed full of different hookahs. There always seems to be a person or two in there shopping.
- We also pass about three different cell phone stores. Cell phone stores are everywhere. I have no idea how they stay in business. I never see anyone shopping there. The shops are very small: just a counter and wall to wall phone packages.
- There are laundry businesses. Often you will see the hot steam irons going and four to eight men all crowded into the space pressing laundry. It seems to be a social business. It also looks too hot to bear. I will find a laundry place soon. I think I can get my shirts pressed for less than a dollar and since we don’t have dryers (and because I wear dress shirts here) my clothes need ironing. I am not into ironing. Enough said.
- There are little trinket shops which seem to have an odd assortment of umbrellas (people use them for shade here…not for rain), cheap toys and beads, odd looking foodstuffs, and hair and cleaning products. Somehow these too keep in business despite the low amount of traffic we see in them. Maybe relatives keep the things running.
- There are dishdash shops. Dishdashes are the long white gowns that the men wear here. At the malls most men are in dishdashes while out on the streets there are more working men seen who just wear dark pants and dark long sleeved sweat stained shirts. In the offices there are many dishdashes seen. The only ones who don’t wear them are the western expats who are there on assignment or hire. The sight of these, along with the women in Abayas was shocking at first. Now I am getting used to it. Given the clothing dilemnas I’m having (trying to figure out what is appropriate for a woman to wear and for what occasion) I am kind of thinking that throwing on a dishdash or abaya would be so much easier. Anyway, back to my block, the dishdash shops look a little boring. It would be like going into a shop back home and finding just white dress shirts for men.
By the way, the blocks here are very, very large. Each block is about 1/3 mile x ½ mile square (1,800 x 2,000 feet). By comparison, a typical downtown Seattle block is just over 300'x300'. There are actually blocks within blocks. If you go to Google Earth and zoom in on Abu Dhabi City about three “blocks” back from the waterfront you will see one block where all the interior streets run on the diagonal. That’s our block. We are on the south end, third office building from the right. You can’t tell it from the aerial view but, other than the diagonal streets, this block is typical of the City blocks. The outer edge of the block is all mid-rise buildings of seven to twenty stories tall. They may be office or residential. They range from fairly new to well used and falling apart. The first floor is always restaurant or retail ranging from the very small stores like I described to larger businesses and markets. There is a Lamborghini store across the street. Just plopped in among the restaurants and cell phone shops.
Behind this outer skin of buildings is the local neighborhood. Mostly homes or small apartment buildings no more than two stories. And Mosques. There are several Mosques in each of these blocks. From these Mosques the call to prayer is broadcast five times a day, starting before sunrise (4:30 AM these days) and ending after sundown. The call differs by time of day but it is always mournful and sad sounding to me. There is a mosque directly across the (inner block) street from our building. The call is so loud that phone conversations have to be paused until it ends as you can’t talk over the sound. I am getting more conditioned to it. I don’t always hear the early morning one now and don’t often take much notice of the others. Unless I’m trying to have a conversation or am on the phone.
There is not much parking provided for all these people and businesses. No underground parking and no surface lots other than the small parking areas along the frontage roads. Only the new buildings are required to provide parking for tenants and until that takes on a large scale parking will be a battle. I will describe that fun in another post.
Anyway, welcome to my neighborhood!