Archive for the ‘Out & About’ Category

Scenes from a Mall: US Brands Promoting Ramadan

August 17th, 2011 14 comments

When I was in Seattle during the first week of Ramadan, I heard about Whole Foods’ Ramadan Promotion. Whole Foods would be the first major American supermarket to have a Ramadan campaign. I thought: Awesome!

This promotion quickly turned controversial. A small but vocal group of Islamophobe bloggers claimed that promoting Ramadan meant supporting terrorism and jihadism, and was “anti-Israel.”

Regardless of how ignorant and idiotic these claims were, some regions of Whole Foods pulled back from their promotion. At least one region of the company wanted to dissassociate from Ramadan. One company executive clarified that they would not be “celebrating or promoting Ramadan” in their stores.


Whole Foods tried to correct the inconsistencies, pointing out it was simply an online campaign with no in-store signage promoting Ramadan–even though they have signage for Christmas, Passover and Easter.

Meanwhile, back in Dubai, I was admiring the beautiful Ramadan decorations in the mall, and it occurred to me how many US brands do indeed “promote” Ramadan—outside of the US, that is.

There are countless American companies in Dubai who have special packaging or products for Ramadan or beautiful window decorations or simply signage wishing customers “Ramadan Kareem.” In fact, there are too many US brands to list here.

Instead, I offer you a visual sample of US brands promoting Ramadan. Photos taken at Dubai Mall & Mall of the Emirates.

First up, Banana Republic.



Crate & Barrel has some lovely Ramadan signage.

The Gap has a particularly colorful display. 

Starbucks serves coffee in a special cup during Ramadan.

 Forever 21 offers chic Ramadan signage AND gives a charity donation for every purchase.

The Hallmark store sells Ramadan cards. 

 Clinque has some clever Ramadan signage. That’s lipstick in the cresent moon.

 Bath & Body Works has some pretty Ramadan signage and decoration.

Finally, saving the best for last: Bloomingdale’s at Dubai Mall is my favorite US Brand for promoting Ramadan in a creative way. Their window displays are super-chic and intricately arranged with layers of Arabian-themed items–more stunning than captured in my snapshots.



Question: What your thoughts on Whole Foods’ Ramadan Promotion? Or on other US Brands promoting Ramadan?

Meeting Martha

June 18th, 2011 5 comments

It seems all international personalities eventually make their way to Dubai ….

And can you guess who was at the Mall of the Emirates today?

Martha Stewart!

Her vast empire just got a little bigger. She was at Tavola today launching her new magazine Martha Stewart Weddings Arabia. She’s a savvy businesswoman, so she must know weddings are a big industry in this part of the world.

Martha signing a cookbook for me "Pies & Tarts"

Martha came across lovely and polished, quite youthful for her 69 years. She was patient and graceful with the hoards of loyal (and slightly over-excited) fans that came out to see her. Just like any Dubai event, the crowds were an international mix of people (mostly women in this case) from all over the world.

According to Martha’s blog, she has a growing portfolio of international magazines. Two of her magazines are now available in Arabic: Everyday Food & Martha Stewart Weddings, which are published in Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria (interesting that Dubai is listed as though it’s a country).

Thank you to Tavola & Wakami for pulling off a great event. You can read more about Martha Stewart’s visit to Dubai here.

What do you think of the Martha Stewart brand in Arabia?

Trip to the Blue Souk … and a Surprise

April 17th, 2011 13 comments


About once a month I like to go to Sharjah to remind myself that I actually live in an Arab country. Sharjah is the emirate north of Dubai and more conservative. Alcohol, sheesha and skimpy clothing are all forbidden.

My favorite place in Sharjah is the Blue Souk. Arabs call it Souk Islamia (Islamic Souk). To confuse you further, the sign outside reads “Central Souk.”

Last Friday, we headed for it, but stopped on the way to eat falafel sandwiches at Kalha—to fuel up for the serious shopping ahead. This trip wasn’t for random purchases. We had an important mission at hand!

The Blue Souk

Located on the Corniche of the Buheirah (the big lake), the Blue Souk is two long buildings that look a bit like a train station. There’s a picture of it on the UAE five-dirham note.

The souk has two stories. The ground floor is mostly filled with Arabic clothing. The upper floor holds the goodies—carpets from Iran, Kashmiri textiles, silver Bedouin jewelry, and all types of bric-a-brac from the region and beyond. The place calls for serious bargaining. Whatever they ask for, start the bargaining at half the asking-price—but always with a smile. 

Upstairs, we entered only one shop. The sign said, “antiques” which translates as, “old and tarnished.” Our family traipsed in and began to poke around.

We bought several pieces of “antique” Afghani jewelry. I also chose a silver Mongolian box with Kufic Arabic calligraphy. I had never seen anything like it, so naturally I had to have it.

While my nine-year-old son tried out the swords for sale, I saw some spoons—antique silver spoons from Russia. I earnestly asked their prices—about $80 each. Hmmm. At this point, my husband began sighing and rolling his eyes. It was time to leave the shop.

A Surprise

Anyway, silver trinkets were not what we came for. Our mission was on the ground floor; we came to buy clothing to wear to Saudi Arabia. The day before my family got Umrah visas to visit Mecca and Medina. In case you don’t know, Umrah is the “small pilgrimage”—versus Hajj, the big pilgrimage.

This upcoming trip was a surprise to me, as I hadn’t expected the visas to come through (not with the two huge Israeli stamps in Husband’s passport.) Thankfully, the Saudis hadn’t noticed—or they chose to overlook them.

So—like any trip—we needed the right clothes. According to Saudi law, I must wear the abaya. For good measure, I decided to get two. We also wanted an abaya for our daughter. Even though she’s still a child, at 12, she’s tall and it couldn’t hurt.

Meanwhile, my husband and boys wanted kanduras, the standard garment of the Gulf Arab Male.

Honestly, I’m not sure why they needed this. Men have a special wrap for performing Umrah and Hajj. The kandura is not required, nor is it the traditional dress of my husband. Perhaps they didn’t want to be left out. Or maybe—the clothing will help our family “blend.”

And so, we went from stop to shop, trying on and selecting our attire. I bought two abaya with black-on-black embroidery and matching shayla (scarf). Meanwhile, my daughter, who had been rather hesitant about the whole thing, perked up when she found an abaya with blue Swarovski crystal trim (of course, twice as expensive as mine).

Meanwhile, our sixteen-year-old son wasn’t with us. He didn’t want a common off-the-rack kandura. He had insisted on a custom-tailored kandura made of special fabric. (Kids these days!)

Back to Umrah: I’m feeling excited and a little bit nervous. What to bring?! How to prepare?! What to expect?! We are booked to travel to Mecca, Medina and Jeddah. (God-willing, we’ll be earning hassanat blessings, as well as Marriott points.)

If you’ve made Umrah, please share with me your “Top Tip.” I would gladly welcome it. Also, share any comments you may have about the Blue Souk or anything mentioned here. Shukran.

Bye for now & Salaam.