Go to any mall in the UAE and try to locate the busiest area . You’ll find that most of the crowd is collected in food courts and if you observe carefully, most of the people are queued up outside McDonald’s, Burger King or Pizza Hut, ordering extra large cokes, extra large MAC’s with extra large fries. Try finding a place in the hum-drum of people all rushing around the food court, scavenging the area with an eagle’s eye for an empty seat.
According to a recent study conducted by BMC Public Health in 2012 and reported on Al-Rasub.com, Kuwait was recorded to be the heaviest country in the Middle East, and second behind the United States globally. Qatar was listed fourth on the list, followed by Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain in the 10th position. A worrying sign that the Arab World’s obsession with being the biggest and the largest is being reflected in their size and weight.
What is it about the fast-food culture that gets people flocking to food courts? A Gulf News article, published in June 2010, reported that food courts are essential to Dubai Mall’s success and this culture has been heavily borrowed from the Americans. Tom Miles, Director of Shopping Centres for Al Futtaim Group Real Estate says, “One of the things the US does well is export popular culture. Whether it’s Coca Cola, Pepsi or Ruffles, exporting is something that Yanks do better than anyone else,” in reference to a growing appetite in the UAE for well-known American food brands. The bigger the brand name, the more likely it will draw the attention of brand-conscious UAE consumers.
Another reason for the popularity of fast-food could be the fact that it is affordable and provides several hard-to-resist options. One can get a full combo meal at McDonald’s for as little as Dhs25 including a Big Mac sandwich, super-sized fries, an extra-large soft drink and one ice-cream sundae. Pretty light on the pocket, pretty heavy on your health.
Results of a new survey, as reported in The National in May 2011, show that at least 59% of the survey’s respondents admit that they eat fast food at least once a week and a relatively equal number said that it represented good value for their money. A justified reason for many who do not want to slog away in the kitchen to cook a home-made meal. Dania Bardaki, a nutritionist and dietician in Abu Dhabi, puts this down as the root of the problem that causes obesity and diabetes among a large percentage of the population in the UAE.
So the next time you’re in Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates, don’t just follow the crowd. Stand in line for something easy on the stomach and your health and remember John Scott Clough’s famous dialogue from the movie Fast Forward, that stuck with us forever, “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.”