Under the Ceilinged Sky
"Mile after mile after mile of malls after malls. Many, many malls. Major malls and mini malls. They put the mini malls in between the major malls, and in between the mini malls they put the mini marts."
- George Carlin
Have you ever had that baffling experience of momentarily losing yourself? I don’t mean in the physical sense – but more like when you step outside from a movie theater and rub your eyes to take stock of your surroundings. A similar phenomenon happens after a day at Dubai Mall. It’s hyperrealism; it’s sensory overload; it’s a kaleidoscope of childhood memories, consumerism and abstract realism. In short, it’s George Carlin’s worst nightmare.
Let’s contextualize things. The Mall itself is a sprawling mass at the base of Burj Khalifa (currently the world’s tallest building but soon to be outdone by Peace Tower in Saudi Arabia and another announced monstrosity yet again in Dubai). It has the scope of a small city complete with an aquarium, indoor souk (market), skating rink, amusement park, and cinema. It also features a food court with hideous lines and the world’s most visited Jollibee branch. There’s people, and lots of them. People eating. People taking selfies. People looking indolently at the mall map. And amongst them all were my wife, daughter and I doe-eyed and perplexed.
Having visited Dubai Mall the previous year, I knew that we were in for a full-day commitment. We set off from our hotel at about 11 in the morning and after a quick commute on the subway were off and running. But not before a 15-minute airport-like journey hopping on and off moving walkways leading to the basement level of the mall itself. Once there, we picked up our “At the Top” tickets and headed up Burj Khalifa. Yes, it’s true, your ears really do pop as the elevator climbs over 100 stories in under a minute. The views from the top are spell-binding, mystifying and for an acrophobic like myself, a touch terrifying. All in all, it’s a worthwhile trip if only to say that you did it.
After some meandering and a quick lunch, we made our way to the Dubai Aquarium. It features cage snorkelling, shark diving, scuba diving, and a walk-under tunnel where stingrays, sand tiger sharks and clownfish ballet dance above your head. On the upper level of the aquarium are penguins, jelly fish, spitting fish (who live up to their name) and Killer Croc, a 750 kg crocodile imported from Australia. As much of a spectacle as all of this was, perhaps my favorite moment came upon exiting the aquarium and finding directly across the way a Crabby Joe’s seafood restaurant (how cruel!).
I won’t bore you with all of the day’s details other than to say we were spent by the time evening rolled around. But we couldn’t leave until seeing the Dancing Fountains. Sure, it’s a knock-off of Las Vegas and only lasts a few minutes but again, it’s something to say you’ve seen.
We arrived back at our hotel late at night. But we hadn’t eaten dinner yet. So out we went again. To where? Well, of course another shopping mall for cheap Chinese food. Shopping mall after shopping mall, all in all, that’s who we are.
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