Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bani Yas Grande

There's a little mini market that is right at the edge of the mostly Arab community that borders ours.  The community is called Bani Yas, and the market is the Grande Market with a huge sign overhead that makes it seem gigantic.   There are a few little shops on either side of the actual market like a dry cleaners, a barber, an Iranian restaurant, and my personal favorite....California Fresh Chicken that just so happens to have the same logo as California Pizza Kitchen.  The first time my husband and I saw the sign for it from a distance we got all excited thinking it was a real CPK only to be disappointed when we got closer. The shops actually form a little horseshoe of sorts and there's a little covered area in the middle, so patrons don't have to walk in the sun too much when going to and from their cars.

I usually end up hopping over to this place maybe once a week.  You can't do an actual grocery shopping trip there, because they don't have a lot of food that caters to westerners.  Still, it's a good place for picking up things like milk, waters, sodas, eggs, bread, shampoo, or toilet paper when you don't feel like driving to the real grocery store further down the road.  Sometimes the kids and I will even eat lunch at California Fresh Chicken, or if I'm being lazy I'll grab a family meal there for our dinner.  We've tried the Iranian restaurant too, but I'm not a fan.  They do have really good fresh hummus and yummy hot tea, so when we have parties I usually pop in there to buy hummus.  The hot tea is something they give you free while you wait for your order.
It may not come as a surprise that I'm pretty sure we are the only westerners that frequent the Grande Market plaza.  It is one of the places that we get the most stares, but everyone there is extremely nice to us.  When I go into the market, I immediately have one of the clerks hover behind me as I look for what I need.  The minute I pull something off the shelf he gives me a basket the size of a laundry basket on wheels.  I've tried to decline the basket in the past, because a bottle of shampoo is much lighter than a basket.  They don't seem to understand that though, and I don't want to offend them by declining their offer of help.  So, I'll wheel around my big basket with 2 or 3 items in it while everyone stares at me wondering what I may be looking for.  Usually, if I'm on an isle more than a minute someone will try their hand at speaking English and ask me what I'm in search of.  I've even had the store manager tell me to stay at the register while he has a clerk retrieve whatever item I need.  I try really hard not to laugh, but it's so funny how they act like I'm fragile and walking around a store for a few minutes might kill me.  They are quick to snatch my basket from me too the minute I get near the registers to keep me from taking anything out of it myself.  The cashiers are all female, and as many times as I've been there I always get the same "Where are you from, Madame?" question.  Not sure if they just like hearing me say I'm American or what, but they always give a big smile and shake their head as if they won a bet on my nationality with the other workers there.  Then they will ask if I'm from New York or California, apparently these are the only 2 states in the US according to people here.  When I say Virginia I have to explain that it is near Washington, D.C. where President Obama lives, then they nod and smile real big as though they understand.  Not sure why, but people here love Obama to a point that it is almost humorous.  Not to digress, but there is even an Obama cologne here.  Most will then proceed to emphatically tell me how they love America, even though they have never been there.  Some will ask me which I like better the UAE or America.  I always say the UAE is a very nice place and I really like living here, but I love America. 

No trip to the Bani Yas Grande is complete without having a clerk insist on following me to my car.  I get the same car service rather it's from the market or the restaurants there.  They all want to help me to my car.  It makes me feel like a real slacker when I'm walking with nothing in hand but my purse and some guy is following behind me carrying my dinner.  Still, to decline the offer would offend him, so I choose to look helpless and always give an emphatic "thank you" or "shukran" for their help and a few dirhams if I have them.

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