The world in Arabia

The world in Arabia

The world in Arabia

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!

Author Ingrid Piller

Dr Ingrid Piller is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Ingrid’s research expertise is in the fields of intercultural communication, bilingual education and the sociolinguistics of language learning and multilingualism in the contexts of migration and globalization.

More posts by Ingrid Piller
  • Mira-chan

    Hahaha yep i remember once i saw o lonely blonde child there in the mall, so i went to talk to him and i intuitively thought he would speak English, but it turned out that he was russian n was like: No Speak English! So i was like: Well, thats a problem here because i do not speak russian either.

    But yes it is actually whenever you go to a big mall in Duabi, you will find people from all over the world and this is what I actually like about shopping there. You do not only get to see the boring scenes of emiraties and indians, but alot more than that. I would recommend you go to Merdif mall, take a walk there because it is another new super amazing place.

    My family actually loves traviling to Kuwait and Saudia Arabia, and I will be the only once refusing to fly away. I would compell to spend some time in Dubai rather than going far away because it is already another world Dx.

    Thanks for the enjoyable post professor =).

  • Lachlan Jackson

    Thanks for the interesting post Ingrid. Another huge temple devoted to the Gods of Consumption? I thought I had seen it all at The Mall of America (the largest shopping mall in the United States, Im told) when I was snowed in at Minneapolis last February, but obviously not.
    Keep em coming!
    Lockie.

  • David Palfreyman

    Thanks Ingrid; as someone who lives within sight of Dubai Mall, I will look at it with new eyes next time I venture inside!

    Re “Dubai unites people from all races, creeds, colors and languages.”: the idea of “uniting” (as in e.g. “The United Arab Emirates”, “The United Kingdom” or “The United States”) is one which could be unpacked a lot. “Unite” them physically in one space? Unite them in a common purpose (c.f. recent UAE government discourse http://www.dubai.ae/en.portal?topic,Article_001124,1,&_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=general )? Incorporate/integrate them into one ideology? Unite them on equal terms? Unite them in mutual comprehension or mutually respectful dialogue?

    For example, I have a feeling that while the shoppers in Dubai Mall are united as independent “globalized” consumers, the staff tend to be ghetto-ized more (particular nationalities performing certain roles in certain kinds of shop). A microcosm of the modern world?