Monday, November 03, 2014

Of Mosques and Malls

On my 39th birthday, our fifth day in Dubai, I did something for the first time, and another thing I do on almost a daily basis:  I went to a mosque, and I went malling.

Jumeirah Mosque is the only mosque - out of easily several dozens - in Dubai that is open to the public.  Volunteers hold a tour every morning except Friday, their holy day.  It is highly-recommended in tripadvisor, and I wanted to go so the boys and I could have a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.

The facade of the mosque is imposing and exquisite, the interiors even more so.  It is not as big as Catholic churches go, but it's certainly elaborate and spotless.  The tour began with the rite called ablution, where you have to clean yourself before going into the mosque.  At the entrance, there were abayas and other traditional wear that you can borrow if you are not appropriately dressed (knees, shoulders, and head covered) or if you just feel like dressing up for photo ops purposes.

The tour is part of the Open Doors, Open Minds program of the government.  A 30-minute talk was given by a lovely woman who wore jeans and Tory Burch flats under her abaya. (Yes, Kaye, I took note of that for you.)  She talked about the main pillars of Islam, and spent a long time clarifying a lot of the myths and misunderstanding surrounding their religion. She did it simply, clearly, and proudly, without in any way sounding defensive or condescending.  She made jokes, referred to George Clooney and shopping - it was all very interesting and informative.  This was certainly an activity worth getting out of bed early for.

The tour guide told us to take as many pictures and ask as many questions as we wanted.

Me:  Tanungin ko kaya kung bakit nila binomba ang Twin Towers sa New York???
Ches:  Ssshhh!  Naghahanap ka ng sakit sa katawan e!
Me:  Hmp.  Sige, ask ko na lang kung kelan Eid ul Ftr at Eid ul Adha holidays next year!


I think my most important take-away from the whole morning was this:  some of the practices we associate with Islam are actually cultural rather than religious, and as with any other religion, Islam has been subjected to many unfounded misconceptions and prejudices, which is why your best bet is always to not generalize and not judge.

So there.

Within the same compound as the mosque is the office and a cafe called The Majlis.  It specializes in beverages and pastries made from camel milk, and is most famous for its camel milk ice cream. Boots had that, and man, it was yummy - thick, creamy, and just the right level of sweet.

I had one of my Jewel's Ditzy Moments while we were savoring our goodies at The Majlis.

Me:  Wait, do male camels also produce milk?

The boys choke on their drinks.

Boots:  Wow!  Slow clap for Mommy!
Ches:  You should have asked the tour guide earlier, she said even stupid questions are allowed.
Yoshi:  She would have given you The Most Stupid Question Award!


Don't you just love that my boys are my biggest fans?  I'm drowning in their abundant love. 

After imbibing all that heavy culture and religion stuff in the morning, we were back to our own true selves by afternoon:  vegetating at the Dubai Mall.

The young Indian couple who joined us at the city tour were awed by the Dubai Mall.  They were gushing about how big it was, how you could easily get lost in it, and need more than a day to browse thru all the stores.  And I wanted to tell them: uh, we're from the Philippines, the land of some of the world's biggest malls (SM North Edsa, Megamall, and Mall of Asia, if I remember my SM trivia correctly), we're hardly impressed by big malls.  Duh.

What was impressive was the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo housed within the mall.  There was also a Sega indoor theme park and an ice skating rink, altho I guess those don't have anything on Ski Dubai, the ski resort within Mall of The Emirates.  Where else can you find a ski resort inside a mall in a city that rose out of the desert?  Only in Dubai.

My favorite part is something called Shoe District.  Omg, shoegasm!  Hahaha.  I didn't buy anything, tho.  Dubai is supposed to be a shopping haven bcoz it's tax-free, but the prices are mostly same same.  You get a good deal only if something's on major sale, like the Buy 1 Take 1 shirts Boots chose at Next.  I did get a Swatch at the airport, and it was cheaper by P500 than here in Manila.  Big savings, I know.  Roll eyes right here.

I so agree with Dr. B:  when it comes to shopping, your best bet is still Manila and Bangkok.  So I buy maybe a small trinket just to remember the trip by, and move on with it.  Equals growing up.  (Yes, me already.)

As with most everything else in Dubai, one word to describe the Dubai Mall is:  extravagant.  The stores have high ceilings, and everywhere you turn in the mall there are lavish waterfalls, giant UAE flags, grand lighting fixtures.  Oh, to have all that oil underneath you just waiting to be dug up and sold for big moolah. 

The stores are a mix of high-end and affordable, similar to, say, Shang Mall or Greenbelt.  The only difference I could see was that there seemed to be more people actually buying stuff here, not like in the Philippines where most people just go 'malling' rather than actually 'shopping'.  

There were plenty of Muslim ladies casually milling about and carrying shopping bags from Gucci, Chanel, etc., like that's something they do on a daily basis, the way I buy my milk tea everyday back home.  I told Ches, I bet you these ladies have the most fabulous outfits under their abayas.  Hahaha.  

Boots was happy to find his own convenience store at Dubai Mall.  For his part, Yoshi was just excited to try the KFC Arabian version.  The taste is blander, the size about the same, but the bowl is huge and almost filled to the brim with yellow rice.  So that went well.  My boys are so easy to please.  That's why we have no problems at all bringing them with us wherever we go.    

My favorite store in Dubai Mall is the Sanrio shop.  I got myself a bag and umbrella, and lovely shirts for Ate and me.  They have different stocks from what's available at Gift Gate back home, and cheaper, too.  

I wasn't buying anything, initially, but Ches urged me to live a little.  It was my birthday, after all. How many times do you turn 39 in your lifetime, right?   

Any malling that ends with me running away with some Hello Kitty loot - is definitely a good trip.