I spent my last day in the Middle East at Dubai Mall, the self-proclaimed “Centre of Now.” The mall guide has the heading “Welcome to Everything.” Without a doubt it’s one of the most amazing places on earth! A huge temple devoted to the gods of consumption. One of the things that make Dubai Mall awe-inspiring is the way in which the signifiers of the global have been brought together in one space.
Many of the more than 1,200 retail outlets explicitly reference other places, as in “Baldi, Firenze 1867” (interior decoration) “Dockers, San Francisco” (clothes) or “Kozi, Africa” (a coffee shop decorated with the flags of a number of African nations).
The referencing of other places is complemented by the brands’ multilingualism. Elsewhere, I have described this multilingual branding as an emerging non-language, the global consumption register. In addition to Arabic and English, and Arabic written in the Latin script and English written in the Arabic script (more on transliterated brand names here), I’ve mostly noticed French, German, Italian, Japanese and Russian. I’m sure that that is only a partial account, as I only spent a few hours there and was there as a consumer, not a linguist. I hope someone will do some systematic research of the linguistic landscape of Dubai Mall soon!
The languages apparent on the signs are complemented by the languages you actually hear spoken by the people who work and visit there. Most transactions seem to take place in English, the language of everyone and no one in this world. The people who stroll around in groups, pairs and families, spoke more different languages than I could count. Both workers and visitors seem to hail from all the lands on earth. Dubai unites people from all races, creeds, colors and languages. I will miss being in the centre of now and everything!