Some readers have asked about the type of stores here, while the range of American restaurants surprise others. So, I thought I’d write up a tongue in cheek salute to American entrepreneurialism in the Middle East. Here we go.
The mall coffee shops and grocery stores open at 8 a.m. in the malls while other shops open at 10. If you tire out shopping, you can always come back later in the day and go until 11 p.m. This morning I arrive at exactly 10 and can still easily find a place to park at Villaggio.
As I’m mall shopping, I may need a few things to update my wardrobe. For dress shoes, I can check out Naturalizer and Nine West (guys might like Florsheim), but if I want more casual footwear or running shoes, there is always Reebok, Footlocker, Sketchers and Birkenstock.
Gap is still a favorite go-to for jeans over here, but there is a Levis too. While Forever 21 speaks to the 20- and 30-something gals, other women’s shops here include Mango, Banana Republic, Benetton, Karen Miller, Guess, Max, Lifestyle, Milano, Limited Too, and Dorothy Perkins. Most clothing stores, however, are upscale UK and Paris-based, which is why I don’t generally buy clothes or shoes here. I would rather pay less at home and haul it back with me much to Bob’s chagrin. There are tons of perfume and makeup stores here too carrying all of the brand and designer names. Arab women love makeup, particularly eye makeup.
If I had small kids or was pregnant (God forbid), there is Carter’s, Baby Gap, Maternity Care, Mothercare, and Oshkosh B Gosh for clothes and accessories, and Toys R Us for … well, you know what.
Party Kingdom has all my birthday party theme paraphernalia in addition to costumes now that Halloween is here. With Thanksgiving coming up, I could pop into the Hallmark shop and buy some cards, but they’d never arrive back to the U.S. in time, so I might as well walk right past.
Phew, I’m ready for a cup of coffee and a rest. My choices include Starbucks, Caribou, Dunkin Donuts, Cinnabon or Krispy Kreme, all of where I can also browse today’s USA Today, Wall St. Journal, Financial Times and two different English local newspapers. I’m up-to-speed on the Giants and Tigers World Series meet up and see that the Vikings miraculously have a better ranking than the Pack. (I might add here that I watched the presidential debates live last evening as well. Since we leave Thursday for vacation, I must not forget to tape Survivor and Homeland.)
If I want to read a magazine while enjoying my cuppa java, my choices are limited to Elle, Mademoiselle, InStyle, Cosmo, People, O and other fashion mags. I can go to the Virgin Megastore and pop for HGTV mag, Parenting, Better Homes & Gardens, National Geographic, Redbook, etc. if I want. Next to the huge Virgin store is a 14-screen cinema. Might as well stop and pick up a movie listing just in case we want to see a flick some evening. Looper, Paranormal Activity 4, End of Watch, and Hope Springs are just a few of what’s showing. The new James Bond flick Skyfall, which I do want to see, opens on Friday.
Now that I’ve got my second wind, I can resume my shopping. I don’t need any more earrings, so I can pass by Claire’s, but I do pop into Bed & Bath next door. And with the intense sun, one can never go wrong with an extra pair of shades from Sunglass Hut. My luggage is fine so I can skip the Samsonite store. I may come back to the Body Shop though. There is a Victoria’s Secret here, but their selection is limited to perfume, nightgowns and casual wear. There is another shop called Women’s Secret that is full of bras and racy panties though which may come as a surprise… and only women are allowed in! They seem to do a brisk business. There’s also a Diesel, Hugo Boss, Paris Hilton Boutique with handbags, and the usual suspects of Lacoste, Polo, etc. I have yet to see a tanning booth however. Rumor has it a Pottery Barn is coming to Doha next year.
Lunch time already? So many fast food choices – McDonald’s, Hardees, Burger King, KFC, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut – but I don’t do fast food anymore, so my preferences will be more toward Subway, Chili’s, Fuddruckers, Bennigan’s, Ponderosa Steakhouse, Johnny Rockets or Applebee’s. Hey look, there’s a Ruby Tuesday planned for 2013!
As I work my way past the food court and pass by Villaggio Mall’s indoor skating rink, I’m reminded that kids and adults can take hockey and figure skating lessons, try out for hockey teams via Qatar Ice Hockey Association or join a bowling league at the bowling alley around the corner from the huge kids playtime/rides area (which I will avoid like the plague).
I’ll digress a bit to mention that outdoor sports here include soccer, of course, but there’s also Qatar Little League American Baseball “open to all English-speaking boys and girls aged 4-18 years.” Adults into motorcycles will want to check out the Harley-Davidson stores for sure and maybe consider joining Hog Qatar. Other sports opportunities include martial arts, swimming, running, basketball, dart leagues, Ultimate Frisbee, tennis, volleyball, yoga, golf, bicycling and workout studios.
I’ll not bother you – nor me – with the upscale end of the mall that features the Guccis, Villeroy & Boch, 51 East, Mont Blanc, Cartier, et al; suffice to say there are well represented!
There are a fair number of home furnishing stores in the mall, but they are expensive and names you probably are not familiar with. But if you want to buy American furniture like we did, the Al Roacck American Furniture Store is just your place. They sell Ashley Furniture! Ikea is opening in January in a freestanding building for those of you who like Swedish lines and food.
With all this walking, I could go for an ice cream or yogurt. Again, I have a decent selection to choose from: Baskin Robbins, Coldstone Creamery, DQ, Haagen Daz and TCBY.
Being a compound queen is not easy you know, which is why I will insist that we eat out tonight. I’m feeling American food. My dinner dining selections are more limited unless I choose one of the restaurants in the Sheraton, Hyatt, Marriott, St. Regis, Intercontinental, Ritz Carlton, Ramada, Radisson, Crowne Plaza or the like. (No Holiday Inns here.) Otherwise, we can go to New York Steakhouse, American Grill or Red Lobster. There may be others that I am still unaware of; they seem to be adding restaurants monthly.
My food shopping is also wide ranging; I can select fresh fruits and vegetables from the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, lots of UK choices, France, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Italy and Greece. Some of the stuff I have no clue as to what it is.
If I couldn’t live without pork, I could drive out to the one liquor store in the country and for a very pretty penny, stock up on all the bacon, pork chops and pork roasts my little heart desired. And I could accompany all that pork with numerous varieties of wine and spirits followed by a trip to MegaMart, which specializes in American food – again at a hefty price. But if I wanted, I could buy English muffins, Smuckers jelly and Smart Balance margarine for breakfast with my Folgers coffee, or Activia yogurt if I was having digestion issues. Lunches are easily prepared with a variety of 98% fat-free lunchmeats from the US, mac & cheese if I hadn’t overloaded on that crap when my kids were little, and brand name frozen vegetables. There’s frozen French fries everywhere! I could splurge on USDA beef roasts and steaks with Heinz 57 or any other number of sauces. If I was feeling lazy/ambitious, I could even buy a Betty Crocker cake mix and tub of frosting to make for dessert, or pop for an 8 oz. container of Cool Whip for $6.
But regardless of my clothing or food purchases, after this long day of shopping, I have way too much to pack onto my camel, Honey, so I opt to drive back to my compound villa in my Honda Accord.
As our shopping experience draws down, you can see that life here in the desert is not just camels and rice; rather, it is very worldly and cosmopolitan. I’m not lacking in the least, so don’t ever feel sorry for me! Life is good.