More than just a mall

An ordinary working day. My friends are all at work, and I take the opportunity to check out my favourite mall in Kuwait, the Avenues. And no, not just for shopping. Don’t be mistaken: a mall in the Gulf is never really just a mall. It is an air-conditioned space where you can spend the day when it’s burning hot outside – as it is for at least half of the year. September is nearing its end, and the daytime temperature has not been under 40 degrees Celsius for a single day. It doesn’t require much imagination to see how the mall is the favourite hang-out spot for Kuwaitis and expats alike.

The Avenues, Kuwait’s largest mall, boasts some 800 stores. The list of stores reads like one in any other shopping mall in the world: H&M, Topshop, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, Debenhams. For those who are a bit better off there is Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and much, much more. There is also a huge IKEA, although the hotdogs are made of chicken or beef meat instead of pork – as pork is officially outlawed here. Kuwaitis love everything Western, and the collection of shops in the Avenues testifies to this.

Although the street view in Kuwait is sometimes rather monotonous, with lots of girls wearing long black abayas, a visit to the Avenues immediately does away with any prejudices you might have about women’s clothes. At least half of Forever 21’s collection (if not more) is definitely not suitable to wear in Kuwait’s streets, and yet the shop is full of local girls having a great time and trying everything on. In the dressing room the abayas and niqaabs are removed, and modern young women appear. Under the black robes are women like women anywhere in the world – very, very fashionable.

Shopping malls however have more to offer than just the latest fashion. Here you will also find a few dozen restaurants and cafes, from Starbucks (an absolute favourite with the locals) to the somewhat more fancy food serving places. From Italian to Lebanese: everyone will find something to his or her liking here. And if you’ve satisfied your appetite, why not go watch the latest movies in one of the many cinema rooms? And this is really just the beginning: Dubai has a large aquarium and indoor skiing hall, Qatar has an ice-skating rink in a mall that resembles Venice – with canals, gondoliers and everything.

The Avenues, as the name reveals, resembles a Western-style Avenue along which shops are located. From one side to another it is a 1.5 km long walk. And since it’s air-conditioned too, don’t be surprised if you see people use the mall for their sports activities: running, jogging or Nordic walking. A place offering so many different kinds of entertainment, this is where the young and old alike hang out during the long, long Kuwaiti summers.

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Photo credits: Simon Chapman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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