No blog about Saudi Arabia would be complete without at least one entry about the shopping. As in, shopping in the Kingdom is a BIG deal. There are malls everywhere. And the malls aren't just regular malls. They are filled with designer stores. For a small-time girl like myself, it is surprising to see stores like Prada, Louis Vuitton, or Bulgaria in a mall. I'm used to seeing those stores on 5th Avenue in New York City, but not in a mall. Isn't the mall where you go to the Gap or Aeropostale?
I'm not a big mall girl. Designer or discount stores don't really excite me. Unless the mall includes a good bookstore or craft store, I find myself bored and uncomfortable. And since I don't have a lot of money, nor the desire to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on one dress or pair of shoes, malls really aren't the place for me.
Nevertheless, you still have to visit a mall in the Kingdom. I went to a couple of different malls. I don't remember their names-though I probably will in the future. There are few features to these malls that are unique, other than the designer label stores. First, there is a sort of mini-mosque for prayer-time. During the different times of prayer, the mall is pretty empty. Some stores close during this time, while others stay open. Regardless if the store is open, you still can't make a purchase during prayer time. Secondly, there are no female clerks in the stores and no changing rooms. There are all kinds of really fancy dresses displayed in the windows. Which begs the question: where the heck are the women wearing these dresses???? I've heard some stories, but I'll write about that later. So if you want to buy a dress, you have to guess the size, buy it and then try it on at home. Third, there are floors that are women only. I think you can actually take off the abaya on this floor. I haven't visited a women-only floor so I can't tell you more. Lastly, there are different eating rooms and lines at the food court. Each little eatery has two lines: family/women and men. And then they have two different rooms for eating: women/families and men. The women/families room is screened off from view.
Talk about cultural differences!
And finally, I just want to say that getting on an escalator wearing an abaya is a little nerve-wracking. I was afraid that my robe would catch in the stairs and I would get in a terrible escalator accident. (But maybe I was over-reacting! I'm always a little nervous on an escalator anyhow!)