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04 July, 2003

Madness in the Marketplace

Through the bustling crowds of dishdashes making their way through narrow alleyways, merchants and shopkeepers pushing their wares, past flocks of black abayas wafting strong, musky attars, here and there a bright splash of sari, children pushing past a thicket of legs and skirts, gaudy coloured toys and knock off electronics from Asia, fake watches and pirated DVDs, spices and dried fruit from the Levant, dates from Oman, cheap textiles from India and the subcontinent.

An old woman veiled head to foot clasps a large sack of pistachios, Bangladeshi maids jostle to buy strange Asian vegetables, a small sticky brat screams for sweets on a nearby stand, several Omanis or east Afrabs in embroidered hats browse discount CDs, and a tall bored sheikh twirls scented worrybeads as his several wives pick over cosmetics and perfumes. This is the souq of today, of a hundred years ago, of a thousand years ago: this is Arabia.

It's Carrefour in City Centre shopping mall: the true heart of the Emirates. This is Middle East culture - shopping, homewares, vast families, western junk food and disposable consumer goods. The only camels are stuffed or plastic, the only carpet are pure machine-woven nylon, and the shisha pipes and Arabic souvenirs are made in Taiwan.



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