Saturday, May 7, 2011

Arab Market

One of my duties as a housewife is the event planning for our weekends. So, I spend some of my time each week trolling websites, the newspaper, weekly magazines and chat rooms for interesting things to do. And for the most part, we've done some pretty interesting things since we arrived in Abu Dhabi. As such, I was excited to see an announcement for the 2011 Arab Market, which was described like this on the website:

"The Arab Market is a popular shopping fair that attracts thousands of people for its enjoyable shopping experience. From Readymade garments, abayas, silks and Kashmere shawls to exquisite paintings and artefacts, the show offers a great mixture of the latest and traditional shopping."

Sounds good, right? It wasn't. We were hoping to find some nice decorations or wall art for the apartment that we could then take home with us as souvenirs. Well, let's just say we were in and out of there in less than 30 minutes and that included the 10 minutes it took to walk back and forth from the parking garage. Here are some of the clues that should have tipped me off (hindsight is always 20/20).

Clue #1: The Location
The market was held at the Exhibition Center. I really should know better having grown up in Madison and the 'markets' scheduled at the Alliant Center, but hey, who knew? I thought maybe things were different here.

Clue #2: Lubna's description
At the coffee morning on Thursday, I mentioned to a few of the ladies that we were planning to go, and Lubna (who is from Arabic descent) said she had gone the previous weekend. I asked her what she thought and she said, "it was okay, kind of ghetto". Hmmm, didn't really stop to think what she might have meant by 'ghetto', and didn't think to ask her to clarify.

Clue #3: The duration
This market lasted 10 days! What authentic, handicraft/art market could stay open that long and still have enough merchandise. (sigh) it's all so clear when you assemble the clues!

Clue #4: The market itself
We walked into the Expo Center and it was like a cross between the WI State Fair and WalMart on a Friday night. So much so, in fact, that we agreed that if we saw a booth selling the Arab Sham-wow, we were going to purchase one. Alas, no luck - this market didn't have anything quite that practical! 

We wandered around for about 20 minutes or so, trying valiantly to dodge the smoke from all the incense burners, the screaming kids running all over the place, and the hawkers wanting to give us a 'good price'. So what did the market have? First, all kinds of perfumes and incense, which is a big deal here for Arabs. If you think women in the states wear a lot of perfume, you ain't smelled nothing! The scents are just too strong for Brian and I and we can hardly stand to walk by the perfume stores in the malls, let alone in this cramped expo space. There were also lots of clothing stalls with Abayas & Sheilas (this is the black overdress and head scarf many Arab women wear in public) as well as all sorts of caftan-like dresses and leggings in every color and pattern under the sun. Purses and jewelry (but the WalMart kind, not the Cartier kind) and some food stuffs like honey or grains or spices. There were also a few stalls selling serving dishes and such (no gadgets really just the serving platters, etc). And then there was a large stall selling "art". I think the main challenge is that the Arab tastes are very ornate and ... well ... gaudy by my standards.  The artwork was all gilded, ornate frames of thick oil paintings of bowls of fruit or Victorian children playing or Old English hunting scenes. Not our taste at all - more like something you'd see in Versailles or the Royal palace. 

We didn't find a single thing even worth considering, so the whole trip was a bust. Well, not a total bust - we did get out of the house and it did give me something to write about! :) I just hope I can remember this experience when I run across the enticing advertising next year. :)

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