DENISE HESSION’s weekly column on life as a Cork emigrant in Abu Dhabi
A SHOPPING trip with the girls wouldn’t have in the past been my idea of a great day out.
But when the trip was to Dubai and was sure to include a posh-nosh lunch and the chance to swan around the glitzy Dubai shopping malls, I couldn’t resist.
One of the attractions of Abu Dhabi is that it is just over an hour’s drive to Dubai, offering any bored expat wife the required respite from sleepy suburban life in Abu Dhabi.
Being a Dubai virgin, I happily trailed on the coat-tails of my shopping pals, who seemed to know exactly where to go for the bargains.
“Karamah,” was the order to the taxi driver. I presumed this was an outlet or department store but instead was surprised to see that the name referred to an area which had streets and streets of single-storey shops.
Dotted here and there with ‘indoor’ areas, made indoor by the use of large sheets of Perspex as makeshift roofs.
Overdressed and underwhelmed, I disembarked the cab and walked gingerly behind my pals, who were fast becoming like hounds who had smelt blood. Their steps quickened, their eyes flashed and the 52C heat and sickening humidity was making this shopping trip more of a mission than a mosey.
My shins pierced by the mid-morning sun, entering the first shop through the hard plastic streamers was heaven. The cool A/C calmed my scorched skin and although the water cooler looked a little worse for wear it stood in the back of the shop like a mirage in the desert.
It was impossible not to be moved by the beautiful handbags within. The Bangladeshi shop assistant hovered around us, calling, “Mulberry, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, what you like, I help you.”
I was just getting acquainted with a classy little Chloe number and while the price was favourable, the quality was a little dubious, it looked perfect but felt plastic. I pawed and fingered the clutch before finally expressing my concern.
“I understand, ma’am, I can see now, you want real copy, this I have, please follow me.”
Leaving my pals downstairs, I followed him into the back section of the shop, where he revealed a simple wooden ladder.
“You first,” said the assistant. Aware of my bubbling cellulite, I took to the ladder and felt his breath on the backs of my legs as we climbed up to a claustrophobic loft with a stifling smell of leather.
Had I been blindfolded the atmosphere would have indicated that I was in some sort of torture/pleasure chamber with leather trimmings. With my eyes wide open, the beautifully finished handbags, exact copies made with the highest quality leather, oozed sex appeal. The only torture was having to decide which one would be mine.
I touched, smelled and felt each one before nailing it down to a final three. Greed and wont made it impossible to have just one — ironically the very reason I emigrated to the Middle East, to support a portfolio of unrentable property in Ireland.
My pleasure passed, the ugly side of the transaction ensued. We haggled to and fro for almost 20 minutes about money, which cheapened the earlier enjoyment.
The day continued in this vein, leaving me tired and spent. Lunch didn’t transpire, but on the way home we stopped off at the Golden Arches for a Big Mac and fries. All of us happy with our purchases and I was extra happy because I knew their bags were fake fake and mine was a real fake.