As you’ve probably guessed from the subjects of these two most recent updates (they’ve been a long time coming, haven’t they? I’ve been a terrible blogger of late), I’ve been on a visit to Dubai. While there, I was living not far from the massive Mall of the Emirates — otherwise known as the mall with its own indoor ski slope — which pretty much dominates the landscape in the area. I mean, you can see that damn ski slope (covered of course, can’t have all that artificial snow melting in the desert sun) jutting out of the top of the mall’s roof from miles away; it looms in the horizon as you zoom down Sheikh Zayed Road and prepare to turn off into Al Barsha (the area of Dubai where the the mall is located). With the possible exception of the local LuLu Hypermarket with its unapologetically garish, hard-to-miss red, green and purple signboard (part of a chain of huge and kitschy stores in the Gulf that Indians head to for all their needs, and the ultimate symbol of Malayali pride in the Middle-East, owned as it is by a Mallu who’s giving the sheikhs a run for their money), Mall of the Emirates is the single largest landmark in the area.
Which is why I found the name of this tiny roadside restaurant tucked away on one of the side streets by the humungous mall so very perfectly apt. Above a cheerful red and white canopy, the signboard of the restaurant proclaims simply, “Mall-View Restaurant.” It even has, beneath said canopy, little tables and chairs set out on the pavement, so its patrons can, presumably, sit, sip coffee, smoke a sheesha, and drink in the view of The Mall. Even if all you can see are tall, sand-coloured side walls of said mall. After all, everywhere else in the world, you have restaurants and bistros and hotels enthusiastically named “Sea-View” or “Ocean-View” or “Lake-View” or “Mountain-View” or “Spring-View” or “Park View”, even if you can only glimpse at a sliver of the ocean waves from one corner of the restaurant, or if you need to lean waaay over the rails of your hotel room balcony to actually see a dash of green from the park. It’s all about location, and owners have for years and years taken advantage of any sort of proximity to city landmarks to make their establishments seem more attractive.
Well, what are the landmarks of Dubai? Malls, malls, malls and more malls, right? Okay, there’s the sail-shaped super-swish Burj Al Arab hotel, and the world’s tallest building (at least I think it still is… who can keep up these days?), the Burj Khalifa (which, incidentally is linked to — what else — the city’s biggest mall, the Dubai Mall). But apart from that, all you have as distinguishable landmarks in a city covered with homogeneous, glass-fronted skyscrapers are its malls. You have the ridiculously exclusive pyramid-shaped Wafi Mall, you have the Aspen of Dubai, the Mall of the Emirates, you have the Persian domes and Chinese pagodas of Ibn Battuta mall (it tracks the travels of Ibn Battuta, see), you have Madinat Jumeira, a mall modeled to look like an old-world souq (ironically one of the few chances you’ll have to see any traditional architecture in Dubai), and you have the mall that’s so big, it’s called a city and has its own waterfront — Festival City. Everything in Dubai revolves around these malls. You give directions based on these malls. Visitors plan their itinerary around how many malls they can cover in a day. Residents mark the passing of time by counting the number of new malls that have come up recently.
And so it is that Dubai boasts of probably the world’s first ‘Mall View Restaurant’. It makes such perfect sense, doesn’t it? Why waste your time on Sea-View or Desert-View restaurants in this city? This savvy restaurenteur has it figured out just right; he’s positioned his property close to and named it after one of the landmarks that really matter in Dubai’s landscape — that mecca of merchandising, the mall. Wish I’d taken a picture of it!