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|March 3rd, 2006, 09:29 PM||#1|
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Dubai Becoming Shopping Mecca
Meet Me at The Mall
Dubai has become a kind of mecca for luxury consumers.
And its mega-malls--with everything from designer handbags to life-size dinosaurs--are the focus of the city's newfound shopping frenzy
13 March 2006
ALANOUD BADR TAKES ONE HAND off the steering wheel of her limited- edition Peugeot 407 convertible, turns down the volume on the Black Eyed Peas and pulls her Moto Razr V3 out of her Gucci tote. "The traffic's terrible," she tells the friend she should have met 10 minutes ago at the Mall of the Emirates, the gargantuan new shopping destination that looms out of the construction-site-riddled desert along Dubai's Sheik Zayed Road.
The mall comprises not just a still-to-be-completed five-star hotel, a branch of London's Harvey Nichols and every designer boutique you can think of but also its own ski slope. Alanoud has graciously invited me to go along with her and her friend while they shop, grab a coffee and ski. Skiing, of course, is not normally part of their daily ritual, but in Dubai you have to do things when they are new. And new is a relative term in a place where there's always a bigger mall being built, boasting even more outrageous tenants. Currently under construction is Dubailand, which in addition to shopping will have a herd of full-size animatronic dinosaurs.
It's pretty clear from a glance at the miles of construction along Sheik Zayed Road that Dubai has plenty of room for growth as an international shopping capital. The Persian Gulf region already has 50 million sq. ft. of retail space, with an additional 27 million about to open. The retailers include every designer brand name, mass-market shops and international department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Harvey Nichols.
"Dubai is a very small place," says Joseph Wan, the group chief executive of Harvey Nichols, "but it's the safe haven of the whole region, the playground of the Middle East, an attractive, exclusive market with all this novelty." Indeed, mall shopping is the No. 1 leisure activity here for both the wealthy local Emirati people and the white-collar expats who outnumber them. After all, there's not much else to do in this heat--except build more malls, as South Asian migrant workers do in round-the-clock shifts.
The locals aren't the only ones who like to shop. More than 100 airlines fly to Dubai, carrying high-spending Russians as well as increasing numbers of Brits, who used to take shopping trips to equidistant New York City but now prefer to combine shopping with sunbathing. Then there are the vacationers from the rest of the Arab world, some attracted by Dubai's liberalism--alcohol is legal for non-Muslims in five-star hotels--others enjoying dry five-star establishments.
Alanoud glances at her diamond-encrusted Chanel J12 watch. The truth is, today's schedule is a little ambitious. We've already "done" Wafi Mall, which opened in 1991 and since then has virtually doubled in size, with a new subterranean "suq shopping experience" planned. We've stopped by the chic Emirates Towers Boulevard to mooch around Villa Moda, the designer emporium that also has stores in Kuwait, Qatar and Bombay. And Alanoud has taken me to the Village Mall, near her family home in the ritzy suburb Jumeirah, where the latest must-have accessory is a clutch bag made from a gutra, the checked head scarf worn by Arab men.
All I knew about Alanoud, 25, before we met this morning was that she's the oldest daughter of a prominent Saudi businessman and that her mother, who is half Lebanese, attends the haute couture shows in Paris fully veiled. Yesterday in the malls, as I watched women in floor-length black robes called abayas and head scarves called sheilahs, as well as those wearing burqas covering everything but their eyes, I wondered what Alanoud would be like and whether it would be difficult to relate to someone from a culture so different from mine. That was before a dazzling girl in a savvy mix of Seven jeans, layered tops from the chain store Mango, and Cartier jewelry showed up looking like an Arab Beyonce.
"Here, I'm very modern," Alanoud explains. "In Saudi, I have to wear a veil and cover up. In Dubai, I choose not to."
Far from being forced to wear the veil, this devoted fashionista sometimes wonders if she has passed up a trend. "In Dubai, it's not just an abaya anymore--it's an outfit. My friends custom-order and customize, and they look great."
So, are her veiled friends as stylish underneath their abayas as she is without one? "Just wait," she warns. "Every single piece they wear is stylish. We don't care what men think. Fashion is our girl thing."
Alanoud explains that in Dubai, women dress their hands. "The jewelry is amazing. Van Cleef is huge, Cartier, Chopard, Harry Winston," she says. Like her friends, Alanoud buys precious jewelry as a seasonal accessory, although in her case, it is necklaces--a Van Cleef gold-and-diamond clover and a vintage Cartier tiger necklace. The opulent triple circle of pave diamonds on her finger is an heirloom gift from her mother.
Handbags are also "hugely important," she says. They are the most visible accessory for women in abayas, but for Alanoud they make the outfit. Her recent choices include a cream-colored Gucci bag that she also bought in brown suede. She has ordered two Fendi bags, a Spy with pearls and a white leather Bag It Satchel; the Chloe Paddington; a Marni bag; and some Vuittons. The one big bag brand she doesn't have is Hermes. "I'm going to wait," she says. "My mom's always taught me, even though you can have it, the beauty is to have it at the right time. If you get a Kelly too early, what's left?"
As for who pays, she does--out of a private income and what she earns from 3W, or Three Women, an online multimedia company she helms with her mother, who is only 45 and earned her master's degree in Paris, and her 21-year-old sister, who recently graduated from Parsons in Paris.
"You know, when I travel, I still meet people who think all I do is ride around on a camel," says Alanoud, half annoyed, half amused. "We may do things differently, but we're very well educated, we've seen more of the world than probably everyone else. We're very open- minded--but with limits."
Those limits include not being permitted to date, although no one is forcing Alanoud into an arranged marriage either. She does meet prospective grooms when her family suggests it, "and the first thing I do is see if he walks in front of me," she says. "Then it's a no, because any man I'm going to love is going to walk by my side."
We are now nearly half an hour late for Nof Al Mazrui, the young mother who is Alanoud's shopping buddy. Nof, who hails from the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi and moved to Dubai when she married four years ago (in Elie Saab couture), is about to open a kids' store called Lolly Pop in the Village Mall. But how to find her now? Right in front of us is a site map that is cut into complicated colored cross sections. We're completely confused. Alanoud whips out her cell phone. "Upstairs? By Mont Blanc and Diesel? Got it."
Nof appears to be in traditional dress until I look past the metallic python Chloe Silverado bag parked on the table in front of her and notice that her abaya has a zip front. "I have them made for me. This one's a bit sporty," she says, "and I'm wearing it over"-- she unzips an inch and peers down her front--"a Top Shop T, Seven jeans and heels, of course. When I wear flats, I walk like a duck."
Nof stopped counting how many pairs of heels she owns at 80. "But I love them all. I have them lined up next to the bed," she says. In her closet, designer gowns from Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli hang next to one-of-a-kind abayas. The dresses are for weddings (at which men and women are segregated), and the special abayas are for covering up at the moment when the groom arrives to collect his bride. Each wedding abaya is designed to emphasize the cut and curves of her dress and the diamonds on the jewelry she's wearing.
This afternoon's shopping agenda is not just about luxury labels. In fact, as Nof explains, most of their time at the mall is about socializing and snapping up fun, throwaway fashion from places like Zara and I-Zone (a Lebanese chain). The problem with luxury shopping in Dubai--and the great irony--is that, according to these world- class shoppers, you can't find "anything" in the stores. As Nof explains, "If Fendi receives five bags, they send them to the sheika's house (royal women get first pick). What's left over goes to personal shoppers for their clients, so that by the time [merchandise] gets to the shop--well, the best pieces of the season don't get to the shop!" She adds, "And I won't wait. I always have a contact person in London."
Those who run Dubai's malls concede that their competition includes stores in Europe (but not the U.S.). "Our main competition is Knightsbridge and Selfridges," says Eisa Ibrahim, the general manager of the BurJuman mall. Yet back in the mid-1990s, when BurJuman was gearing up to open (it, too, is in the process of expansion), most luxury brands turned down retail space. Now, even space that won't be ready until 2009 is leased.
As for the U.S., Alanoud says her family rarely visits these days. "It's such a long way, and there's so much happening around this part of the world that going there isn't necessary anymore." Nof doesn't travel there either, mostly because her husband forbids it. "We used to go a lot. We'd hop around to New York, L.A., Las Vegas," she says wistfully. "But my husband is from Ra's al Khaymah- -that's the most northern emirate--and one of the bombers on the 9/ 11 planes was from there." Instead, they go to London, where Nof's husband prefers that she not wear the abaya. "It attracts attention," she says. "Although without it, my mother's friends pass by and don't realize it's me. They don't usually see me in jeans and a top with my hair down."
They have probably never seen her on skis either. We have come to ski, and Alanoud is determined, changing into ski pants and a jacket while Nof slips a long padded parka over her abaya. Nof needs no encouragement to try tobogganing and even has a go at skiing after Alanoud, who is proficient, demonstrates where to position poles and skis. We might be in the middle of the desert, but it feels as if we are in the Alps: chairlifts lead up to the black-diamond run, and it's cold enough to fear frostbite.
The apres-ski plan includes an invitation to Burberry's store opening, where ceo Rose Marie Bravo surveys the crowd. "The consumer is so elegant here!" she says of the Dubai women outfitted in subtly customized abayas, designer handbags popped over their shoulder. "Aren't they gorgeous? They look stunning," Bravo continues. "They say, 'Well, you all wear uniforms in the Western world too,' and look at us," she says with a laugh, indicating how she and I are dressed. "They're right. We're in black as usual!"
Another day, another mall. The next morning, Alanoud shows me around BurJuman mall with her friend Raghda Bukhash, the designer of the gutra clutch bags. Under the label Pink Sushi, she also designs slogan Ts, and she gives me a peek at the one she has on under her abaya. "It translates as, 'Shake your hips, little ducky,'" Raghda says, laughing. "So now you know I'm a rock chick Madonna with my customized T and my micromini and my black tights and bright green jeweled shoes!"
Raghda is cute, and she's also ambitious. "I'd like my designs to represent my country and my culture in the wider world and to show we're not just rich kids who don't do anything," she says. Her idol is Gwen Stefani. "I love her! She's kashka. That's the Emirati word for cool. "
It's now afternoon, and Alanoud has a work meeting she can't miss. In any case, I have an appointment with David Dessureault, the buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue at BurJuman. As she leaves, Alanoud invites me to dinner at a place called Spectrum. "They do the best virgin mojitos," she says. (We end up having more fun on mocktails than I thought possible.)
But there's another surprise in store, literally, and it's not Dessureault's revelation that 495 Balenciaga bags have sold at Saks in just six weeks. Instead he leads me behind a boudoir-pink wall to a pretty blond in a matching pink uniform. She's wrapping a stack of saucy lingerie items for two women who are entirely veiled, including burqas. When they leave, Lisa Hastings, the manager of Agent Provocateur, explains that they are a mother and daughter shopping for the daughter's wedding lingerie, adding that she sells plenty of "playful" underwear to women wearing abayas. The shop's best-selling item? "The jeweled whip," Hastings says. "We can hardly keep them in stock."
"We don't care what men think. Fashion is our girl thing."In Dubai, women dress their hands. "The jewelry is amazing. Van Cleef is huge, Cartier, Chopard ..."--Alanoud Badr
|March 3rd, 2006, 10:00 PM||#2|
Join Date: Jan 2006
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thats true, i have not seen anywhere the kind of shoping malls we have here.
PS. for the people of the indian subconitent dubai has always been the number one shopping destination right from the early 80's
|March 5th, 2006, 01:14 AM||#4|
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Munich | Dubai | London
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that is true.
but also if you are middle class and find a job in dubai it is likely to be much better than in most other cities, that's why we have so many expats
|February 3rd, 2013, 04:34 AM||#5|
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Arab Spring aftermath batters Mideast tourism, Dubai booms
By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent
Reuters – Fri, Feb 1, 2013
DUBAI (Reuters) - The revolts that began in Tunisia at the end of 2010 and spread across the Middle East and North Africa had a devastating impact on tourism, but not everyone in the region lost out.
While recovery from the turmoil has been at best tentative, at worst non existent, places where the Arab Spring has not reached have been unexpected beneficiaries.
The smattering of tourists at the pyramids outside Cairo is almost outnumbered these days by souvenir sellers as a continuing political crisis overshadows Egypt's new democracy.
Further east, meanwhile, the lobbies of the grandiose Atlantis resort on Dubai's artificially created Palm archipelago are packed with visitors.
Worries over possible militant attacks or a regional conflict involving Iran deter some, particularly Americans, but many others say they feel secure in Dubai in a way they would not elsewhere in the region.
"It's wonderful and it feels very safe," said John Macleanan, 69, a retired engineer from Australia's Sunshine Coast visiting Dubai for the first time. "I could live here, although I don't know that I could afford the accommodation."
Even as visitors abandoned much of the Middle East in 2011, dealing a severe blow to countries like Egypt, 10 percent more of them headed for Dubai's beaches and shopping malls.
Cushioned from pro-democracy protests by wealth and a small indigenous population, Dubai has used its Emirates airline and strategic location midway between Europe, Africa and Asia to persuade transit passengers to spend at least a couple of days.
The emirate reported more than 5 million visitors in the first half of 2012, the latest available figures show.
There is no breakdown between tourists, business visitors and transit passengers, but hotel occupancy rates regularly exceed 75 percent and more rooms are being built, a stark contrast to 2009 when Dubai teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.
"Dubai is back, there's no doubt about it," says one Western diplomat on condition of anonymity. "And it's not just back, it's clearly benefiting from the chaos elsewhere in the region."
As conflict broke out in Libya and Syria in 2011, fledgling tourism industries there were all but wiped out.
Tourist visits to Bahrain, where pro-democracy protesters clash regularly with police, have almost dried up, pushing the national Gulf Air airline to the brink of bankruptcy.
In Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, a marketing campaign targeting European holidaymakers in particular resulted in a 30 percent rise in the number of visitors in 2012 compared to the previous year, with almost 6 million arriving.
But that remains 10 percent below the figure for 2010.
"What has happened to tourism in the Middle East is that it has become very polarized," says Nadejda Popova, senior tourism analyst at consultancy Euromonitor.
"You have the countries such as Egypt which have really suffered, and then you have the United Arab Emirates."
Oil-rich Abu Dhabi, capital of the seven-member UAE, saw its visitor numbers top 2 million for the first time in 2011 and hopes they will have increased by another 10 percent in 2012.
Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia, whose oil wealth has helped it avoid political unrest, reported a big increase in visitor numbers in 2012, mainly religious tourists and pilgrims from increasingly wealthy Muslim populations in the Gulf and Asia.
Last year, Saudi officials told local media they expected some 18 million people to pass through the country, many on pilgrimage to Mecca.
Egypt, meanwhile, has been perhaps the hardest hit.
Tarek Yahia, 30, says he knew when he protested in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 that the uprising would have a knock-on effect on his income.
But the English-speaking tour guide - who has both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in Egyptian history - says he never expected it to be so great.
"This year, there hasn't been a high season at all," he said, adding that for many days in the last two years he has had no work. "You would never have seen it this empty before. People had to queue just to get a photo."
Before the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the sector made up more than 10 percent of gross domestic product, employed some 10 million people and accounted for a quarter of foreign currency earnings.
Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said the number of visitors rose 17 percent in 2012 - but remains 22 percent below pre-revolutionary levels. He did not give total figures but a Reuters calculation based on 2011 numbers showed that would mean around 11.5 million visitors.
Egyptians angry over a perceived anti-Islamic video trashed part of the U.S. Embassy late last year, and protesters also returned to Cairo's streets, angry over a new constitution introduced by President Mohammed Mursi.
"We did better than anyone expected despite all the problems we had," minister Zaazou told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference earlier this month.
He was speaking before the latest round of unrest, which saw dozens killed in cities along the Suez Canal.
Increasingly, visitors fly into locations such as Sharm el-Sheikh directly for often entirely self-contained package holidays. Museums and other attractions in central Cairo are left all but deserted and even those who visit the pyramids or Valley of the Kings near Luxor do so on fleeting coach trips.
Giza postcard seller Nasser Roby, 39, says he has been forced to cut back from 3 to 2 meals a day. He says he voted for the Muslim Brotherhood in last year's elections - but that whether he will do so again depends on the economy.
"It is good that we got rid of the old government," he said. "But life has become very difficult."
|February 4th, 2013, 10:25 AM||#7|
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