A pink taxi

A pink taxi

July 1, 2010

Got Islam?

Generally speaking, and exceptions abound, supermarkets in Dubai have an ethnically based clientele. The yellow Spinneys bags are for the Western folks and Arabs who can remember that Spinneys originated in Lebanon. The green Choitram bags are for the South Asians (who don't always go to Lals or LuLu) and all those who seek overpriced air freight Western goods. The white Coop bags are for Emiratis who shop in bulk. The purchased Carrefour bags are for the rest of us who buy in bulk and for Iranian tourists who crave Western goods. The Lifco labeled bags are for the Levantines who need their grape leaves, mloukhiyeh and other specialties (ie. mughli).

I have many girlfriends, who like me, score the aisles of various supermarkets in search of the organic cucumbers at Coop, the chicken and Waitrose cans at Spinneys, the cereals at the Organic store, the pretzels and New Zealand apples  (100% crunch guaranteed) at Park and Shop, the Indian veal at Choitram and the French turkey breasts at Carrefour.

I ALWAYS shop with one, two or three kids. Food shopping with no kids is like watching Toy Story without them. Not only does  it keep them entertained but they also enjoy quality and educational time with their mom. (Who needs Kidzania to learn about weighing fruits and baging food by category?)

Usually accompanied by my youngest (the other two at activities), we drive along the aisles chatting in classical Arabic and we shock the veiled Arab women at Coop, who cannot identify our origin (how is it they don't speak a dialect? Why do they speak TV arabic together?) and possibly identify our blond hair and caramel skin as Bosnian.

Today at Spinneys, in a rush to drop my daughter at a play date and pickup my son from swim team, I was bagging my Waitrose cans and special chicken, when the cashier asked me:

-You are Muslim?

The Muslim part was pronounced with a U rather than an Americanized O sound. I remembered I was wearing my ayat alkursi pendant and responded affirmatively to his surprised question.  That moment of "bonding" was very different from another experience I once  had.

A few summers ago, I was walking in the park in Geneva, wearing a T-Shirt my sister had gotten me from Stanford. The Jarding des Anglais parc is reputed for its loitering drug dealers (most of them Moroccan). It was broad daylight but drugdealing is a reality in this permissive country.  I was wearing a Stanford T shirt with the Stanford pine tree on the chest and on the back was a Muslim Week Awareness Message with its logo: "Got Islam? "(Referring to the  "Got Milk" campaign you are probably familiar with). I suddenly felt a hot breath in my neck and a drug dealer was whispering in my ears:

"Got Islam?"

I turned around, disgusted and fruious and I blurted a "dkhol fi souk rasak!" which is Moroccan for "get lost!". I had taken a seminar while in Boston on Moroccan dialect and  in that instance, it  had finally served its purpose.

                                                               Le Jardin des Anglais


  1. Shopping has always been my department.I know of many males who have never set foot into a Carrefour or even a small " Dukkan", amongst them is the blogger 's husband!I will describe my experience at the French outlets!especially at the beginning of the summer season.
    In the early days of the Eighties,we used to rent a big van in the first few days to accommodate the four kids,the driver and our cook who would accompany us to France!The first trip would be to the huge Le Champ department store,a grueling,winding trip from our home!The van would open it's wide doors to disembark the jet-lagged passengers,each going after their
    special need.Finding one's way amongst the nervous summer French shoppers,is more dangerous than navigating your way on the famous A8 highway!Approaching the sales counter is another " do it at your own risk" experience !
    The nicest shopping experience is at Safeway in Washington DC,or Smith in SLC,Utah.Tlhe difference in space and organization of American supermarkets is so comforting and easy compared to the French experience.Of course the blogger has covered the various outlets in Dubai amply.Recently,I have been shopping at the nearby Carrefour in Monaco,though the hectic negotiation of the aisles is as exhausting.

  2. Amou, you are a gem for doing the shopping as is my father and now my husband. It is the one thing that i really, really dislke. Carrefour in particular gives me the hives. Shopping amongst the droves of people all rushing around gives me ulcers. I took my younger brother there once when he was visiting and he just kept shaking his head and looking around in astonishment as people nearly ran each other over trying to get to items. In the states, people poitely say "excuse me" or they just ignore one another so it's almost as though you are shopping alone. But not here. And Yas, Union COOP is clueless about he word "bulk" I went to the counter that specifically states "Bulk Counter" and asked the guy there about buying diapers in bulk. After I explained how many I need I asked about price discounts, etc. He was like, well there is no price discount but we can give you a box of diapers. I just looked at him, blinked once and went back to my shopping cart and took 5 packs of diapers which will last for all of five days. I love Choithram because there is nobody ever in there. The little one on Jumeirah beach road is fantastic. Yes, everything is over priced but it's worth it for my sanity.
    So to all the men out there that do the shopping for the house....Bravo!