There is no need to keep your cash in your wallet in the UAE. The national pastime appears to be shopping, and there are a number of malls at which you can fulfill your every desire.
While you may find the well-known brands at the big malls, by far some of the more interesting shops are the little ones located on the ground and mezzanine levels of most apartment blocks.
Generally speaking, you will find at least some of the following in any given block:
The Grocery. This is the UAE equivalent of a corner café and spaza shop. These tiny little shops can barely fit more than three people in at a time, but are crammed from floor to ceiling with every imaginable goodie. From bread and milk to washing powder and toothpaste. You name, they’ll have it. And the amazing thing is, you don’t even have to leave your car. All you do is park outside and hoot. Someone will come running out, find out what you need, go and get it, and bring it to your car!
Photocopy and Typing shop. An absolute essential when it comes to dealing with the red tape that Abu Dhabi loves so much. Here you can get your official documents typed in Arabic and have the appropriate number of photocopies done.
Photography Studio. Again, an essential part of Abu Dhabi red tape. For every document, you’ll need at least 4 passport sized photos.
Saloon. No, this is not a pub, but a barber shop. There are hundreds of hair saloons around town, where you can get a haircut and a shave with a straight razor. Some even do men’s facials and hair dyeing. Ladies saloons are generally not visible from the street because of the requirement to cover up in public.
Automatic Laundry. Unlike a do-it-yourself Laundromat, here you drop off your clothes for washing, drycleaning or ironing. And can collect again within 24 hours. Very convenient.
You are also likely to find a butcher, a tailor (again, men’s and ladies shops are often separate), video stores and internet gaming cafés.
Often specialty shops are grouped together in informal districts. In one street, for example, you’d find all the car-related products: window tinting, car upholstery, spare parts, tyre shops et cetera. In another, it will be back to back jewelry stores, or carpet shops.
But by far my favourite thing about these little shops are the signs. As English is seldom the first language of the proprietor or sign-writer, you get some terrific names. Our local grocery is the Aroma Grocery. My husband gets his hair cut at the Green Ruby Saloon. The photography shop near our first flat was called The Lovely Studio.
I first started keeping an eye out for funny shop names and signs when I spotted Mehboob Watch Shop. I had a mental picture of a little old man with opera glasses carefully watching the passing boobs…..
On the way to Khor Fokkan (a seaside resort town) one weekend, I saw the Al Kanaris Bird and Fish Shop. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera ready, and couldn’t take a photo.
I also wasn’t able to take a photo of the Green Goat Butchery (lovely image) or the Laughing Chicken Butchery. I really don’t know how much laughing the chicken was doing, but I hope the butcher himself is laughing all the way to the bank.
I am not sure what exactly the Families Roaster offers, but I am not sure whether I’d actually choose to eat there.
And despite its name, I think Rasim Rasul Puncture may actually be a tyre repair shop. At first my husband wondered whether punctures were imported to compensate for the excellent conditions of most roads.
Because of the various language issues, spelling can also be a problem. I am quite sure that this Day Spa may actually be a “Wellness Centre” as opposed to a “Willness Centre.”
And after much pondering, we figured out that what the Al Falah Natural Treatment Centre was offering was in fact a physical, as opposed to the advertised pizhichil.
Nothing, however, could top the one we spotted on the way home from the Post Office. I’m dying to try out some traditional Arabic sweets and pastries, but I’m really not sure whether I want to buy them from the Butt Sweet House.
I think I’ll do a taste test somewhere else.