Category Archives: Shopping

Dubai Dragon Mart

Standard

Dubai’s Dragon Mart

www.dragonmart.ae

Really big warehouse/madhouse full of really cheap stuff!  Pretty much if it’s made in China, it’s been unloaded here.  At 1.2 kilometers  in length, it is the largest hub for Chinese products outside of China.  This market is truly huge, contains over 3500 individual shops, and is generally open from 10 am till almost midnight.  You can buy wholesale or retail here, and bargaining for the best price is a must!  Here’s a picture of the dragon-shaped facility – notice that even the end of the head is marked by a “tongue”.

aerial view

aerial view

 

So, what do they sell you ask?  Everything.  Our experience there started with a perk from the bank we use here in the UAE – if you are an HSBC customer with a Platinum Advantage credit card, you will receive valet parking at no charge for as long as you shop.  This is about a AED17 perk, so drive right up to one of the orange cones beside the “valet parking full” signs that they must use to simply block the lanes.  They’re really not full.  Plus, you won’t be adding a long walk after your shopping, and this is a big deal, so take advantage of that HSBC perk!

Oh, out front is a cool fountain with a globe and a dragon wrapping itself around the globe – pretty cool for photos, and the entrance is dramatic.  If you’ll look off to the sides, there are also some small outdoor kiosks, and the prices there were better than many shops inside!

souk 020 souk 022

pretty cool dragon, huh?

pretty cool dragon, huh?

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

 

First stop was a costume jewelry section – the facility is roughly separated into like shopping, all the tools in one section, all the jewelry in another, etc.  I say “roughly” because it was likely the original plan, but once a shop owner has a shop, they’re gonna sell everything they possibly can.  Little separation.  I took a couple photos of some “pageant jewelry” that I thought my friends in Alabama in the US would appreciate.  I did resist the desire to buy a monstrous tiara, though – they are truly CHEAP here!

Definitely had southern Pageant Jewelry!

Definitely had southern Pageant Jewelry!

fabulous fakes, to be sure

fabulous fakes, to be sure

shiny crystal earrings

shiny crystal earrings

chandelier earrings

chandelier earrings

 

And, unlike most of the shops in Dubai staffed by friendly Phillipina women, it’s staffed by generally unhelpful, young Asians, I assumed they were children or relatives of the shop owners, who were almost all Chinese.  Oddly, it was really really difficult to get their attention, they were all glued to their phones, texting, gaming, watching videos…… After several attempts to interrupt one video-viewing young lady in a kiosk that had some batteries that we wanted,  TBG was frustrated and asked me “How do you get their attention??”  I said “like this”

“Hello.  How much??”  Loudly.  Almost rudely.  And weird, because it’s not my style.  But, it got her attention and she grudgingly put down the phone, removed one earplug and looked at us.  Didn’t stand up because that would have been WAAAAY too much trouble, you see.  And as soon as we asked for something, she shook her head “no” and went back to her phone.  So, we didn’t know if they actually *had* the battery we wanted, or if she simply didn’t want to be interrupted.

Oh, this sign made me smile……

A sign from one of the merchants at Dragon Mart......  the "Goats Grinding Wheel" just made me smile.

A sign from one of the merchants at Dragon Mart…… the “Goats Grinding Wheel” just made me smile.

I did pick up some wickedly-kitschy artificial floral stems that will make an excellent corner accent when I finally get around to making that happen.  Also got a small speaker for my ipad for when I want to watch movies or TV shows, and some forms to put inside pillow covers.  And a Dyson-look-alike fan for something outrageously cheap, like $40 US – crazy.  I did not buy any of the “Prada” bags or the “Jimmy Choo” shoes – I thought that $60 US was just waaaaay too much for a genuine “Prada” bag…. <snort>

Oh, and a couple of really huge silk jungle plants, I forget the names of them – they’re tropical, but stupid expensive in the States, I’d shopped for them before.  I tend to murder indoor plants, so silk is the way for this gal to shine.  I snagged both these beautys for only AED350, IIRC…. That’s about… um….. Just under $130 for them BOTH.  Shoot, I’d found the cost in the States to be more than that for just ONE.

a smidge dusty, but the price was REALLY good!

a smidge dusty, but the price was REALLY good!

nice plants, huh?

nice plants, huh?  And yes, those are TBG’s bigass boots I forgot to crop outta the photo.

 

There’s also all sorts of food-ish choices in the middle of every section – popcorn, corn (!), gelato, tons of fresh fruit cut-up.  Resist them, go upstairs to “Charley’s” and get a toasted sub.  Yum.  http://www.charleysme.com/

The escalators were oddly-decorated but interesting, and there were some Chinese entry-points that were fun.

souk 017 souk 019 souk 018

All in all, a great shopping place for things where quality isn’t critical or you’re looking for nothing in particular.  Or if you’ve got an entire afternoon to just wander around and look at stuff.  It’s sort of a Chinese Wal-Mart, but pleasantly confusing.

The Nutmeg Incident

Standard

Those of y’all that know TBG know that he is a *firm* believer in “more is better”, right?  So, if the directions tell you to use a “pinch” of something, two pinches would be much better…….

He was gonna stop at the store and called to ask me if I needed anything.

“Nutmeg.  Just some nutmeg.”

“OK….where is it??”

“Spice aisle, baby…. In the spice aisle!  Just need some nutmeg for French toast”

(see, now I’ve got him associating the spice with something he wants to eat, so he’ll not only remember it but look forward to it… and think I’m planning meals for him.  I’m a wiley woman!)

“OK, nutmeg.  French toast.  Got it.”

Now – I didn’t think a single thing about this again till he got home and handed me the bag triumphantly….  But it was a lot heavier than I’d expected for a jar of nutmeg, you know??  I was expecting this……

Image

But what I ended up with are these…..

ImageImage

Lots and lots and lots and lots of these!  Like, enough of them (still in their shells!) for everyone I know to have a lifetime supply……

So, I learned to crack them open and grate them to use them.  Man, is it fine to have freshly-ground nutmeg – the fragrance and taste are ever so much nicer than that little jar, but I’ll never tell TBG that – I just chide him about “The Nutmeg Incident”……lol.

At the local market

Standard

Grocery shopping here is different from what I was accustomed to in the US – not a HUGE change, but different.  There are no “Super WalMart” stores here, but there are grocery store chains as well as smaller, privately-owned shops.  In order to find what our family enjoys in terms of food often requires several shops and multiple trips, as well as a bit of sleuthing on your part, or an extremely helpful store clerk.

Produce here is widely available, and from all countries you can imagine.  We routinely eat nectarines from South Africa, garlic from China, limes from Brazil, grapes from Cyprus, zucchini (called courgettes here!), tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers are often grown locally, and have excellent flavor.  Check out these tomatoes I saw at the local Spinney’s grocery store this weekend, aren’t they luscious looking??

gates 020 gates 019

Herbs and spices are abundant as well, and are used in a myriad of dishes.  Catering to the extensive expat community here, the groceries carry an amazing array of vegetables and fruits – there’s always something new to try!

dunno 862

OOhh…. something *brilliant* that is common here that I lovelovelove….. you get your produce weighed and priced IN THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT! By people that actually know what a white radish is…. and don’t charge you for a “carrot” at the checkout. Only one set of scales, and the checkout clerks simply scan and bag. Brilliant!

dunno 860

I get tickled at some of the labels on foods here – they’re generally a literal or phonetic interpretation of some sort, but always good for a smile….

Taste of Dubai 014 Taste of Dubai 023

Check out these amazing looking cabbages – they’re quite flat, very dense, and have a “sharper” taste than the round ball-shaped cabbages I’m accustomed to in the US.  Pretty cool-looking aren’t they??

IMG_1932 IMG_1933

Many times, I’ve not known what a specific vegetable fruit or spice is used for, or how to prepare it…. but I’ve found that simply asking another woman that’s choosing that item will generally end up in some sort of idea, or at least an attempt to communicate how to cook it.  Thank goodness a fellow shopper steered me away from those tiny cute little peppers, and suggested the larger, milder ones – that dish would have been inedible!

There are some awesome and quite artful displays of food here, and none less colorful than the seafood – rainbow-glistening fish, brightly-striped prawns, and hard shells just daring you to open them and see how pretty they are just inside!

IMG_1627Taste of Dubai 015 Taste of Dubai 016

I’ve come to understand that my expectations are not common to this area… for example – what a local meat counter looks like here.  My western eyes were expecting some small packages with portion-sized bits of meats….lol… not at this store!  Take a look at the size of these!  Now granted, *all* meat counters are not like this, but some are.  These gents were hard at work back behind this meat counter….. see how nicely all the various cuts are displayed?  And they’re labeled with country of origin, price, etc.

Taste of Dubai 018 Taste of Dubai 017

But how did they get into that display counter?  Well, take a look behind the scenes…..  I had noticed a large rack being wheeled into the sawing/cutting area of this meat section…..  filled with carcasses of critters that Ididnotknowwhatthehecktheywere.

Taste of Dubai 019 marketing 005 marketing 004

I gestured to the gents “could I take your photos?”  And one began posing, one began covering the carcasses with their original burlap bags, another said “nah, she wants a photo of the critter” (my guessterpation of his native-language comment) and they removed the bags.  And knocked a carcass off its hanging hook to the floor.  And picked it back up and hung it again.

Like I’ve said….. things are different here.

Madinat Jumeirah Souk

Standard

*sigh*…. Where to begin? This is a very picturesque touristy-shopping-eating area inside the Madinat Jumeirah Resort that’s been purpose-built to resemble an old-world souk.  And it kindasorta does, a little bit – but not really. You do have to acknowledge the efforts put into the theming though – again, Disney would be proud!  This is what the approach looks like, and on the right side of that bridge is a *perfect* place for a photo, fast, easy to get to, and never a bad photo.  No one else is gonna be in your shot, either!

IMG_5680 IMG_5681 IMG_5682

IMG_5666 IMG_1068 IMG_1080 IMG_5670 IMG_1076

Meandering walkways and canals will eventually lead you to an amphitheater area, as well as some lovely restaurants and cafes. On this early April day, sitting outdoors to enjoy a coffee in the early to late morning would be pleasant. Much later than that and this gal would be searching out some air conditioning.

IMG_1056

moving water makes you feel cool and relaxed, I think

moving water makes you feel cool and relaxed, I think

IMG_1047 Burj Al Arab 056 Burj Al Arab 057 Burj Al Arab 058 Burj Al Arab 051 Burj Al Arab 052 Burj Al Arab 064IMG_1038

There is a scenic sort of a canal that runs around the outside of the area, and small abras will take you from area to area if you’d like – it’s quite a bit of walking! I did take some photos of the area, the shadows and lights make for some interesting patterns.The landscaping is quite lovely, and the grounds of the resort are just beautiful.

framed by a lovely arch, the trees provide privacy and a barrier to the city beyond

framed by a lovely arch, the trees provide privacy and a barrier to the city beyond

light and dark, shadow and sun - we're always looking for one or the other here

light and dark, shadow and sun – we’re always looking for one or the other here

loving the pergola and shadows here

loving the pergola and shadows here

IMG_1054

shadows and angles

shadows and angles

beautiful landscaping all around

beautiful landscaping all around

IMG_1079

Around the grounds here there are some awesome photo opportunities, and we took advantage of all of them, I think. There are some cute decorative items all throughout the souk areas and the restaurants have some wonderful “local flavor” built in, too.

me standing in front of the ampitheater area - it's quite large!

me standing in front of the ampitheater area – it’s quite large!

and yet another photo op

and yet another photo op

just stand in front of just about any place here, and the photo is really pretty!

just stand in front of just about any place here, and the photo is really pretty!

outside one of the restaurants

outside one of the restaurants

IMG_5671

This is what they look like during the holidays, quite crowded and decorated.

 

inside the dark cool souk.  And I've also noticed it spelled souq.

inside the dark cool souk. And I’ve also noticed it spelled souq.

IMG_1069

This is a favorite photo – it captured both the top of the Burj Al Arab, plus the wind towers on “old” buildings…. they actually funnel the wind blowing and acted as early air conditioners!

2Burj Al Arab 077

So, if you’re exploring Dubai and looking for some afternoon shady entertainment – this is your spot. Take some money, check for vouchers from the Entertainer or Big Bus Tour books, have a late lunch and snag some memorable photos before you leave.

Shopping review – Park ‘n Shop

Standard

It’s not often that I find a local store with higher-than-normal prices that I’ll continue to frequent…. but Park ‘n Shop is one!  Amazing customer service, excellent selection and bright clean store.   Park n Shop opposite Green Communities East … anyhow, it’s new, bright, clean, has a nice and wide assortment of goods, especially those pesky American items that catch my eye. I had to resist a number of things that weren’t on my list! Covered parking, and the cashiers were kind and friendly, not bored and indifferent – but the big plus was that the bagboy actually pushed my groceries out the door without asking! One thing, watch the expiration dates closely – a “buy one get one free” salad dressing deal certainly looked like a great buy, until I checked the dates, and they were just a few days out. But – lovely bakery, watch the signage – if they’re out of something, they’ll just leave the sign there next to something that looks exactly like it, but with a different price. Annoying. Overall? Yeah, a bit spendy, but much nicer produce than my local Motor City Spinney’s and a faboo bakery.  They also have a fish section that’s sort of “separated” from the rest of the store, as well as a “pork” section – no aromas from either make it out.  Oh, and the store is on two levels, with one of the flat magnetized escalators helping you up and down.

 

park n shop 009 park n shop 010 park n shop 011 park n shop 012

 

Just don’t forget that traffic in and out of the Greens can be monstrously difficult if you aren’t in and out between say 10 am and 2 pm daily.