It’s finally happened! The build up was huge; the anticipation palpable. But finally, after hearing of its imminent arrival for months and months, the time has come. Without further adieu, the entire country of Kuwait welcomes with open arms, skipping feet and hardening arteries, the first of its kind to grace our borders: The Cheesecake Factory.
Maybe you think I jest a wee bit. Sadly, I do not. In the 16 months we’ve lived in Kuwait, this is the one event that I have heard more about than anything else. First, it was the anticipation; knowing that behind that wall of drywall in The Avenues mall, where all that sawing and hammering was occurring, was the coming forth of that great American icon offering over fifty types of cheesecake.
Second, without any prodding from me, I have heard more expats (since we tend to hang out with mostly expats) asking, “Did you hear the Cheesecake Factory is opening next week?” or “Have you tried The Cheesecake Factory yet?” or even, “Can you believe we haven’t made it to The Cheesecake Factory yet?”, than anything else, including the world-record-breaking fireworks show put on last month.
Apparently 2012 is the year of the cheesecake. The first Cheesecake Factory (TCF) in the Middle East opened in August in Dubai in the Dubai Mall (where we personally witnessed hundreds of people waiting to get in), quickly followed by Kuwait’s grand opening in November. And don’t think the expansion is stopping soon, there are allegedly 20 more cheesecake outcroppings planned throughout the Middle East.
In addition to all the hooplah, it’s equally amazing that an entirely new wing of The Avenues mall was built with essentially TCF as its anchor; a spot typically reserved for Macy’s or Harvey Nichols or even H&M. But with the crowds flocking to say they’ve eaten at TCF, someone obviously knew a good draw when they saw it.
And not to be outdone, or to ever let you forget the immense effect the Western world has on places far and wide, there’s also a Texas Roadhouse, Red Lobster, Uno’s Chicago Grill, Starbucks (to compete with the other four Starbucks throughout the mall), West Elm and Williams Sonoma (to compete with the Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel), and two more Bath & Body Works and The Body Shop, just in case you (or your maid) doesn’t want to walk all the way down to the other end of the mall for your cruelty-free products. This whole new wing, encompassing all these new (or duplicative) shops, is called Grand Avenue (but affectionately known as Cheesecake wing). It is designed like an open-air strip mall, with architecturally varied shops giving it the feel like you’re ambling down the boulevard, replete with a row of palm trees. It has towering glass ceilings, which aid in the “outdoorsy” feel, without the pesky 130 degree temperatures and blazing sunlight. However, for all the hype around the unveiling of the Grand Avenue, and the insulin-raising excitement over TCF, I think the real big news has been overshadowed. While this may be the first TCF in the Middle East, even more amazing is that Grand Avenue also houses the very first full-service Victoria’s Secret. Yup. Never before in the entire Middle East has there been a Victoria’s selling anything but accessories, perfume, and lotion. Not a scrap of silk, lace or underwire to be seen. Until now.
Now, don’t be mislead into thinking that the Middle East is full of women sporting white cotton unmentionables. Trust me, from my personal observations in Cairo, where 8-year-olds sold red lace DDs and leopard thongs from a wooden pallet on the sidewalk, to a very eye-opening visit to a lingerie shop where you could get musical thongs, chained-garments, feathers on everything, and their best selling gown and robe set called “The Monica” (they apparently found great fascination with Ms. Lewinsky), Middle Eastern women are super confident about their sexuality under all that flowing fabric.
So, whether your drawn by the promises of never-before-seen cheesecake varieties, or learning just what Victoria’s secret is, or just appreciate yet another mile of indoor air-conditioned mall-walking opportunities, the new Grand Avenue has it all. Now, I just hope this grande soy chai tea latte will last me until the next Starbucks. Only fifty paces to go!