It was a hot summer morning and I had a day off; smack in the middle of the week…this meant just one thing – Girls day out. “Get ready to go wild!” I said as I scanned the paper for the weather report.
Anjali hopped up and down… “Are we going shopping? Can we go to Deira City Center? Can we go to the movies? Will we go in the metro today? Can you buy me bubble gum? Will we get to the bear store?” The questions were endless. I sighed.
The July and August were two of the hottest months in the year. The temperatures soared up to 48⁰C during the day and humidity of up to 70% in the night. A day out in Dubai meant packing light, drinking tons of water, dressing sensibly and lots of sun. Dubai has two sides; Bur Dubai and Deira. Both are well populated and known for different things. Both has Creek parks, Souqs (Markets), shopping malls and places to hang out. Since we had the whole day, I decided to explore both shores after all Dubai is SHOPPER’S PARADISE.
“The plan for today…Mall hopping, shopping and more shopping” I said as a loud “Yipeeeeeeee” broke my ear drums. I read out my checklist to Anjali.
Comfortable shoes … “CHECK” Anjali yelled in excitement.
Pants and t-shirt … “CHECK”
Water bottle for two … “CHECK”
“Ok…my list, mummy” Anjali said as she ran around me like a bee zoning it for a sting.
Apple for me to eat … “CHECK” I replied drily. It was bound to be a hot, hot day!
Stroller “NO CHECK”
Chips for me... “NO CHECK”
But I want chips!! Everyone eats chips when they go shopping! …. I shook my head. After a few minutes of arguing, she gave up. There was no use arguing with me. I was the Alpha and the Omega…. no one would win. She rolled her eyes and looked to the Heavens for patience while I smiled and pulled her along.
Deira City Center
We took a cab after an agonising 10 minute wait in the blistering sun. The cool interior of the cab was a relief. Located about 15 minutes away from Al Quasis, City Center (as it is popularly known), was one of the first and largest malls in existence in Dubai before the arrival of Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall. Housing more than 340 stores, you will be spoilt for choice.
When it first started in 1996, I remember the wonder and astonishment we felt when we stepped into the huge mall for the first time. They had a huge supermarket by the name of Carrefour in it. The store was so huge; it looked like hundreds of stores being packed together at one go. It was paradise to the children who entered the glass doors of City Center. On a hot day like this, the mall was a blessing. I ran in as soon as we got there. Being embraced by the cool and soft air inside the mall was heavenly.
Anjali was excited to just run from window to window, pasting her face as she peered into each store yelling “Can you buy me the Sketcher shoes? What about the golden hair pins in Damas? I want those dancing camels in the Greetings store…Wow… Cartoon CDS in Virgin Mega stores…Do they have Hannah Montana?” I guess the magic of the mall never wears off. We walked past the famous stores and shopped for a few clothes. As usual I kept shaking my Head for NO every 5 minutes. Anjali gave up asking and sat between a few bears to relax while I checked on a few birthday cards. She did the same thing a couple of years back (see pic).
A tip for newbie to Dubai, the malls here have brands from all over the world. If you have money to burn, the only question would be Gucci, Versace, Zara … well, that’s a whole lot of questions!! If you are looking for a more economic purchase, the Deira Gold souq is nearby for Gold or Jewellery and the Deira Clock Square is well known for bargains on furniture, carpets, rugs or Mobiles. However, if you are planning to visit these places with a car, God help you with the parking. A cab or bus is more practical. The cab meter starts from Dhs.10 and the bus charges vary like India.
After an hour of shopping, it was time to get to the next mall for Brunch. Water taxis or the ABRA was a well known form of transport from Deira to Bur Dubai. However, the thought of the sun quickly killed that idea of sightseeing while commuting. We followed the malls signs to the Metro which was connected to the mall. The Metro is almost one year old and one of the most convenient way to travel. I filled up my Nol card at the counter and we were ready to roll. Commuting was cheap if you caught the bus or Metro. A Nol card cost only Dhs. 20 per person and can be used for both the bus and Metro. For a Dhs.14 ticket, one could go all over Dubai on the Metro. The Metro provides an incredible view of the city at Day with the Burj Khalifa being visible from miles apart. At night, the view of lighted Dubai is like a fairytale. Anjali was excited to get on the Metro. Children under 5 yrs travel for free; hence I had to swipe in and pick her up to cross the gates to avoid any beeping alert. Our station was an underground one, we travelled from one stop to the other with just lights whizzing by. As we passed each station, the overhead announcement for each station was repeated in English and Arabic. We were off to the Khalid Bin Waleed Station, popularly known as the Bur Juman Station. Anjali kept cocking her head to listen and looked around at the travellers curiously while asking me all sorts of questions.
“Can we stop the train in between?”
I shook my head for a ‘No, only in emergency’.
“Can I have my chips and juice now?”
I shook my head “No. eating and Drinking on the train”
“What is that sign?” she pointed to a No Smoking sign. I explained.
“Which is our station?” I gave her the name. She kept chanting it until the announcement was heard in 5 minutes.
“Ok, next is our station! “ She yelled as she picked her bag. I had to smile.
Kids were so excited on an outing. It was hard to contain them. We had more of the blistering sun before we got to the cool of Bur Juman. One of the best things about this Mall was the interior. It has two parts. The Old one would have you come up through The Paris Gallery store which had perfumes and cosmetic brands from all over the world. One was always be tempted to just take a whiff of some perfume or cologne or just have a spray of some fragrance.
Tip: If you are sweating buckets, this is the best way to smell wonderful with no money involved.
The New one was all about ambience and lighting. The interior was done in stone, marble and granite and looked so lovely that one could just sit down and unwind, watching the people go by as the fountains gurgled nearby. It was the food court that caught Anjali’s attention. The Lebanese stall had a Lahem that she liked. Lahem is chappati like bread baked with fillings of cheese, zatter (seeds of a special kind), meat or chicken. Our favourite was one with cheese, parsley leaf and meat. Hot off the oven it tasted delicious and was filling. For people who like freshly baked stuff, the Lebanese eateries are always packed with Veg and Non-veg things. Falafil is another thing to try. A fritter made from Fava beans then ground together with various ingredients including onion, parsley, sesame seeds, and spices such as cumin and coriander ; is a tasty veg nibble to try any day. Shish Taouk( sizzlers platter) and Shawarma (Arabic sandwiches-veg and non –veg)are two other things to try out. It is guaranteed that your taste buds will ask for more.
The next thing on my list was a designer bag and classy shoes. Bur Juman had the brands but my poor wallet would not live up to the cash required for a purchase. The best place for knock offs on designer bags was the old Karama market aka The Souq . Anjali smiled the moment she spotted Karama souq from the bus. It was her favourite destination. It meant some toys and goodies for her. You can blame me for the indulgence. A girl has got to have some fun! We had fun walking into numerous shops and haggling. Anjali had a blast with picking out bags that she likes and I got down to shortlisting and bargaining. In the end, I settled for a Burberry bag with a small purse for Anjali. The shoe shops had lots to offer and it was one in the afternoon before we knew it. Anjali has me try on all the shoes that caught her fancy…the stilettos, the long heels, open toes , straps, flats, …well, you get the idea, don’t you! It was hot and we were tired. The water bottles were empty… time to replenish stock.
Karama is also well known for the eateries that are tasty and easy on the pocket. Choose any type of cuisine and Karama would show you selections. We were at a loss to decide where to go. Calicut Paragon- yummy Keralite food, Golden Fork- Japanese, Chinese and Pilipino food or Saravan Bhavan- Pure Vegetarian? Anjali wanted to play on the monkey in front of Appa Kadai , so there! We decided to go to Simran’s Appa Kadai which was famous for its Appum. Owned by Simran, the famous Tamil starlet, it was popular among Indians. After a scrumptious lunch and lemonade, the both of us felt tired.
Tip: It is always best to take kids to a child friendly outlet in the afternoon. I personally recommend a mall. The heat is unbearable after 11 am and the best way to relax is to take a nap or siesta in the afternoon.
UAE has followed the practice of siesta time for ages. The time between 1- 4 pm is always a time to have lunch, nap or just rest. Owing to the heat, it was impossible to keep an open eye when the rest of the city slept. The day was young, Anjali refused to go home.
The next bus to Lamzy plaza stopped in front of the plaza theatre. Time to catch an afternoon movie. Anjali napped while I sat peacefully and watched a movie un-interrupted. She woke up when the credits rolled and it was time for another shopping spree. Lamzy plaza has a play zone for the children and it was loved by kids all over. While we were at the zone, the DSS (Dubai Summer Surprise) parade started. Anjali got hugged by Modesh, mascot of DSS. She was so delighted. The clowns and the men in long walking stiles waved. The jugglers and the acrobats danced around a few children. The music and drums were deafening but the kids loved it. A stage play of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs followed and what can I say, I love fairy tales!
Tip: The Dubai Shopping Festival processions are a treat to watch. It is easy to obtain visit visa to Dubai during this time. The bargains, discounts, outlets and variety of items available during this period are no match to anything received else where.
Lamzy, is also a place where you found shops of various ranges. There is a Japanese shop Daiso that has all sorts of items at a price range of Dhs.5-50. Branded stores like Bossini and Giordano are my favourite as the quality is always good and a sale around this time means cute stuff for Anjali to wear. The Food Court was busy by 5pm and Anjali and I settled for some Italian pasta customised to have meat sauce, veggies and tomatoes with Garlic bread on the side. Of course, the vegetarian pasta was ideal to have but the crowd and the heat made us hungry. Anjali stopped at a candy stall. This is a popular feature at every mall. There are at least 15 varieties of sugary candies to choose from. The yellow candy bear, chocolate football, the almond balls, coffee bars, jelly beans, jelly bears …oh! I could go on and on! Anjali filled a cover full of everything she could fit in while I wondered how much it would cost me. I asked her to watch out for the parading Modesh while I conveniently emptied ¾ of the sweets back and got it tagged. Sneaky me!
We shopped for some baby clothes for Keren. The sale on the cute overalls and baby rompers was irresistible! I spotted a toilette kit for the hubby and shopping was complete.
Home Sweet Home
Anjali was tired; it was time to head home. Juggling my shopping bags, her goodies bag and sleepy Anjali, I made the Herculean decision of boarding the first bus in sight and then heading over to the Bur Juman Metro station to save time reaching home. The cab and bus would meet traffic at 6 pm from the home returning public. It was a good decision. We reached home in 20 minutes. A quick bath and strong tea saw me sighing in content. A tall glass of milk saw Anjali nodding off. The delicious French croissants and sausage rolls we got from the bakery at one of the malls was quickly consumed and it was lights out for the both of us. Until the next weekday off, the delightful Ibn battuta and Mall of the Emirates can wait…YAWN! along with the lovely but old Meena Bazar and Heritage Village which has a history of its own at every corner…YAWN!…caio!