Where can you find a true cross-section of Dubai’s population?
A visit to Ikea is like watching a Shakespeare play. I know what you must be thinking. I’ve been watching too much E! by way of comparison. But bear with me. Inside the flat-pack palace, you can witness people from every walk of life very publicly building their private spaces – and they’re doing it together. Inside the blue and yellow emporium, suddenly something as personal as the colour of your bath mat and shower curtain is laid out for all to see (mine are a rather bold combination of orange and blue, just for the record).
You have the comedies. Ikea staff must find it constantly hilarious to watch new flatmates in their early twenties pretend the store’s bedrooms are real, lying down for a mock-kip. Then there are the over-excitable kids, who can’t help but confuse home and homestore, picking up anything and everything and slobbering all over it until their dads eventually shut them in a handy pre-assembled cupboard somewhere.
And we can’t miss out the romances. The gooey-eyed newlyweds who love every second of building their new life together, pot-plant by foot pouffe – all the while oblivious to being bashed in the knees by other families’ out-of-control kin.
Finally, there are the tragedies. The ones who’ve ended up alone, stuck in a futile attempt to lift a 10-tonne box of drawer parts all on their own, scowling at the honeymooners floating about serenely around them. Until a kind stranger, maybe softened by the personal atmosphere of the place, offers to hoist the flat-pack onto their wonky-wheeled trolley.
Ikea is perhaps the most level playing field we have in Dubai. Until our upper classes ditch their cars and truly embrace the metro, there are few other places you can see rich and poor of every nationality following the same little arrows around the same shiny walkways. Class isn’t an issue. Style and cost-effectiveness are.
So next time you fancy watching some real-life drama, I suggest you brave Ikea and watch the emotions – or the meatballs – fly.