A tall, thin Western bloke, standing ramrod straight on one of the small overpasses on the second floor. He wore cargo pants, a blue and white checkered shirt, sports sandals and a red and white khuffiyah haphazardly wrapped around his skull. He was fully into the “I’m in the desert” zone and stood, staring straight ahead down a long passage of the Mall of the Emirates, gazing at something intently. … through binoculars. I watched him for 3-4 minutes and he never moved a muscle, not even a twitch. I strained to see what he was monitoring so intently, but nothing moved down at the end of the mall. I never saw what had so captured his attention.
On a floor above me, also perched on an overpass so common to multistory malls, hundreds of men all stood, heads bowed in prayer, facing Mecca (Or Tiffany’s, I think, in this case.) They were diverse, from young t-shirt clad Arab hipsters to older men in full-on bedouin garb. And as one, they all prayed, shifted and rolled smoothly from standing to pressing their foreheads to the cool marble floors. They were utterly unselfconscious and intent on their devotion. It was, surprisingly for me, quite moving. (I’m not one for public displays of religiosity.) And a reminder that in the squalor of Dubai’s commercialism — praying in a Mall! — faith still propels many people through their day.