Sunday, May 02, 2010

Qatar is a Giant Shopping Mall (Not Quite)

After a day or two in Doha, Qatar it is easy to think that the country is one big shopping mall. In fact, one quickly begins to feel that the shopping mall is in some urban American center like Northern Virginia, as I remarked to a fellow geographer.

First, the shopping malls in Doha are huge. The Doha City Center and the Landmark Mall in particular are simply massive with hundreds of stores each. These are modern, Western stores like Carrefour, the Hallmark Store, and Foot Locker. The food courts are populated by McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut, and more.

Beyond the malls themselves there are plenty of markets, called suqs, that sell goods from the Middle East and other nearby regions. Chinese made goods ranging from cheap trinkets to clothing to electronics are everywhere (much like in the United States). Those expecting a traditional Arab market in Doha will be disappointed by how mundane and Western the markets are.

What really gives the mall feel is the culture and people. All but two, yes two, signs I have seen so far in the entire country have been in English and Arabic. While Qataris do stand out in their white and black clothing, a large amount of them wear the Western-style of clothing I am use to. There are plenty of Southern and Southeast Asians laborers and their families as well as many European and American expats and military. With English being a universal language sharing the landscape with another language and a very diverse population, Doha Qatar feels like any multiethnic American urban center.

The "newer", northern parts of Doha certainly is like a giant shopping mall. Diverse people, wealth and consumerism, and the dominance of English make Doha feel like a super mall in America. However, a trip into southern and northern Doha reveals different shades of Qatar.

To be continued....

2 comments:

Goethe Girl said...

Couldn't go to either of the links.

Love to read your observations.

Dan tdaxp said...

Did you get any photos of the inside of the Carrefour? They are all over Beijing, and I wonder if they are on the same design...