Shopping

11 Jul

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OK, so this might be a bit boring for some. The fact is, though, that shopping has been my main activity since arriving in Abu Dhabi. I have now become relatively familiar with four of the malls out here but more specifically the supermarkets in them. I know, I know – yawn! I guess you have to be in a similar situation to us to appreciate the significance.

For ex-pats, be they in a boat, a caravan, a villa or elsewhere, the quality of your life is very dependent on what you can buy to eat locally. If you can’t get the staples of your home country it is something of an adjustment to develop new eating habits. Of course, that can be a huge part of the attraction. Who wouldn’t want to buy fresh French bread from the local bakers every day? Well, I can tell you that the appeal can wear a bit thin when that delicious crust starts to make your jaw ache. How about all that wonderful, rich Greek cooking? You can get pretty sick of Feta cheese and long for a bit of decent Cheddar or Stilton.

Let’s face it, British supermarkets are pretty damn good. That’s not to say that other countries don’t have good ones too, but the sheer variety in, say, Tesco is hard to beat. So it came as something of a relief to discover the supermarkets out here are something worth writing about.

The first I came across was LuLu. With their headquarters in Abu Dhabi this is an international chain of hypermarkets. It was love at first sight. With the tagline that goes something like “Where the world comes to shop” they really do ‘get’ the multinational, multicultural needs of this city that consists of about 80% ex-pats. However, as most of these come from Asia, Africa and other Middle Eastern countries, the British taste is not as strongly catered for except in the form of American favourites and our fondness for curries. There are so many things, including even fruit and vegetables that I have never seen before let alone know how to cook with. More importantly for us, however, is that this is probably where we’ll be getting our white goods from when we can finally start equipping our kitchen.

Then there is the familiar Carrefour which is definitely worth the taxi ride. Slightly more up-market than LuLu, perhaps, this is also a hypermarket to get lost in (you can imagine how much Neil loves that!) and has more of the recognisable brands for us. This is one I’m looking forward to spending more of my time in when I’m on my own.

There is a Co-op in the mall nearest to our current apartment but this is not the chain Brits would be familiar with. To be honest I struggled here which is decidedly inconvenient for the next week or so. Yes, we are still hoping to be in our own apartment in the not too distant future where, wait for it, our local supermarket will be …. Waitrose! Apparently there was huge excitement among the British contingent when this opened. It even has a pork section hidden behind metal double doors with a sign specifying non Muslims only. Real bacon and sausages!

Then there are the malls themselves which are unbelievably quiet at the moment. You can get pretty much anything, clotheswise, from abayas to Prada. M&S even crops up along with Bhs and Boots. The latter, however, was a disappointment – the shop assistants had never heard of the Simple range which I rather depend on in the UK.

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I do have to mention IKEA. This is a pet hate of Neil’s with its meandering layout. There’s no getting away from the fact, however, that this is probably the cheapest place from which to equip a home. He’s getting quite familiar with it now. But it was not from here we made our first major purchase. On our excursions we spotted a table and chairs that we fell for straight away. We’ve ordered them today. On the slender evidence that the signed contract is now in the Abu Dhabi post office and the fact that we have a key, it will be delivered (imshallah) to our own apartment on Thursday. Milestone!

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