Sunday, June 7, 2009

Some assembly required

It's a credo that applies not just to building furniture using funny little locking nuts and wooden pegs, but also a new life in a new country.

My bedroom has gone from being a room with a bed and a wardrobe to being a room with a bed and a wardrobe in different positions, to including--as it does now--a bedside table, a desk and two lamps. (and of course a power strip) There is more to come, too. Cooking implements, for instance, as I have promised my Australian roommate that I will introduce him to the joys of brisket and Gates.

1,899 dirhams of pure Italian cooking muscle.

I am narrowing down the field. The above is one option: it has five burners, which we don't need, but is only 200 dirhams more expensive than the 60-centimeter-wide four-burner model. And 60 centimeters, as I judged by trying out a few pots and pans on the cooking surface, is about the minimum amount of space an ambitious cook (or me) would need to do more than one thing at once.

The grocery store, by the way, is an amazing place. You can literally buy anything there, and not in a crappy Wal-Mart quality kind of way. Even shisha.

A fella could have a pretty fun night in Dallas with all this stuff.

Soon after taking that photo, though, a staffer swept by and told me photos were not allowed. Which is his right--it's their store and I was just a dude carrying a camera, a bottle of mouthwash and a fitted sheet that I hadn't yet paid for.

But shopping is big here. Huge. So is staying up late. So what you see is people out buying the hell out of stuff at, say, 11 p.m. That's when the shot below was taken, on a Sunday night. Note that there are so many people out that some men are just sitting on the grass, hanging out.

Not pictured: the hour and a half it took me to find an empty taxi.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of all the commerce is how cheap everything is. That's largely because the economy has to adjust to the low salaries of the bulk of the population--a taxi driver might clear Dh3,700 a month, which is $1,000. But that money goes a long way with everything but housing. And that is defrayed by rooming with six other people. "Bed space" is what the housing ads tout.

Anyway, the low prices are exemplified by this store, "Al Dirhams," which translates to "the dirhams." Unless it's someone's last name, in which case he is "Mr. Dirham."

Suck on that, Dollar Store.

And so I begin a new week with a somewhat furnished apartment, an easygoing roommate and steadily rising temperatures.

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