Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visiting the Beirut Souks and the Mega Toy Store

Yesterday I packed up the boys and walked downtown. It’s about a 20 minute walk through busy streets, but there are sidewalks, and the traffic moves fairly slowly, so it’s not so bad. It was a beautiful day, and we had a view of the sea almost the entire way. Yet, it seems people here don’t walk very much, because on our way, we probably had at least ten taxi drivers ask us if we needed a taxi.

We had two destinations in mind: H&M and the Mega Toy Store. No, that is the actually name of the toy store. Also, I was under the impression that H&M was part of the famous Beirut Souks, which I had been wanting to see for a while. It was very easy to find, but goodness. I was coming from Cairo, where a souk is a local market with fruit vendors, meat vendors, bird cages, chickens running around, stenches you can’t even imagine, people yelling, discussing prices, along a dirt road in a narrow alley, clothes lines up above, and the Beirut Souks were nothing like this. It looked like a giant outdoor extra fancy mall, with women in D&G jeans, high heels, and Armani sunglasses chatting on their Blackberries, while their dressed up children sipped chocolate milk at an overprized café. More women in clothes directly from the Versace window, having lunch with their girlfriends; really, it was like a set from Sex in the City. And there was I, with a giant jogging stroller, in my Eddie Bauer jeans and blouse, pink flip flops bought at the end-of-summer sales at Walgreen’s last year, and my boys dressed in soccer shirts from last year’s league, matching their torn shorts.

We entered the store with caution, but soon felt at home: H&M is Swedish after all, practically ours. William picked out clothes to try on in the fitting rooms, and August’s entertained Abraham by showing him the various Sesame street shirts, while I browsed through the store. Soon I noticed that my kids were by far the best behaved ones in there. There was a girl about eight, wearing a dress that must have cost a fortune, her hair obviously done by a professional, screaming at the top of her voice, stomping here feet in the ground, demanding something from her mother (who was obliviously chatting on her Blackberry). Two other boys, about the age of William, were walking around taking most things they could grab off the racks, “dropping” them on the floor, and a few other kids were just running around, yelling, out of control, no mothers to be seen. These women were not shopping with the kids, they were just bringing them along, probably because schools are out this week due to the Eid. I was surprised not to find more nannies or maids in tow, actually. I wonder why that is.

After having purchased a few pajamas, we walked over to the Megastore Building. The toy section was in the basement, and it was quite a feat to get down there with the stroller, but we made it. It was the most expensive toy store I’ve been in here in Beirut so far, but the selection was also larger. I even found pegs for peg art, which I’ve been searching high and low for, since this would be perfect for Abraham to do while we’re doing our school work around the table. The peg art boards were sold out however, though the shop holder told me they would be getting more before Christmas. All the Lego was double the price anywhere else. They had some really cool things though, and I’ll go back there for some Christmas shopping closer to the holidays for sure. All we got for now was a little bucket of Play-Dough for Abraham, and on the top floor August picked out a movie that I way over-paid for, although it was nothing compared to what the boys really wanted; the complete collection of Harry Potter movies, and all the Star Wars movies. I myself eyed the complete seasons of the Wire, which I’ve heard is great, as well as 30 Rock, but there was no way I was going to spend that kind of money.

Noticeable was that none of the mothers and children we had seen just a block away in the clothing stores were in the toy store. It was just us.

Our walk home was a bit unpleasant; Abraham wanted to play with his Play-Dough in the stroller, but since this meant it would all be lost on the ground on our way home, I had to pack it away, and he screamed (for a good solid 15 minutes) himself, hysterical, to sleep. I had thought we might take a look at the TSC signature store (which was also in the Souks), to find out what that is, but it would have to wait. Finally home, Abraham woke up happy, and the boys were excited to wear their new pajamas.

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