I try not to have preconceptions, but this is not what I expected.
When I think of the Middle East I think of traditional markets, like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Not an upscale shopping mall that would not seem out of place anywhere in North America. Okay, I have heard that they have places like that in the United Arab Emirates, but I wasn’t expecting it in northern Iraq. After all, there is a war going on. A new shopping mall is not what I expected.
The shopping experience was a little different, I think. I don’t shop in malls very often, but I don’t remember ever having to go through a metal detector at the mall entrance, something that is required at Family Mall in Duhok. Once through that process (which was pretty cursory, I guess I don’t look suspicious) it was just like being back home.
Even some of the chain stores were familiar, like Yves Rocher. The food court had a Hardees, and the sign said KFC would be opening soon. I gather the mall is new, only open a few months, a sister to a similar venture in Erbil, a major city a couple of hours drive south. As well as 50,000 square metres of stores here is also an amusement park (which I didn’t check out, it being November after all). Looked like it could be fun though, especially in the summer heat.
It’s a different world, a western bubble. Not many kilometres from here you can see shepherds and their flocks. About an hour’s drive down the highway ISIS forces control the area. I guess the owners of the mall are pretty confident they aren’t coming this way or they wouldn’t have plowed millions of dollars into building this place.
The prices seemed pretty close to what I would find in Ottawa, at least when I looked at them at Carrefour. In my travels I have run across Carrefour as a grocery outlet, but as I discovered here it is so much more, a rival to Wal Mart. I guess I have only seen it in small towns. At an electronics store a new phone would cost me less than half the price of the same phone in Canada. I wish I had waited to buy my new phone, but who knew?
Once I got over the shock I discovered there was really nothing I wanted to buy. There is a reason I don’t frequent malls in Canada. I’m just not a shopper. If I need something I get into the store, make my purchase and get out. Shopping for the sport of it is not something I have ever really enjoyed.
That being said, I do enjoy the energy of a traditional Middle Eastern market, and the haggling that comes with each purchase. Even there though there is always the question of whether I need what is on display. Unless it is food, the answer is probably not.
I enjoyed my outing to the mall as it let me see a side of Iraq I hadn’t really thought of as existing. As a shopping experience though, it was pretty much a failure.