Shoppers browse at the new Dragon City Mall in Bahrain.
Ishaq Madan

The pagoda-like buildings of Dragon City, a Chinese megamall, is an odd vision in the desert landscape of Muharraq, the third-largest city in Bahrain. The large complex, laid out in a traditional Chinese courtyard style, sports cavernous hallways lined with larger-than-life red lanterns hanging from industrial-looking ceiling beams. As I browsed a store designed to look like a high-end watch retailer, the afternoon adhan, or call to prayer, began to echo through the halls. Shoppers made their way to the specially designated male and female prayer rooms located on the ground floor of the mall. Many of the shopkeepers who were Chinese remained in their stores. One salesman hummed along with the call to prayer as he folded bedding. The emptying halls revealed an endless array of items for sale: light-up sneakers, crystal chandeliers, traditional Gulf incense, and custom-tailored abayas. And that was just the section for commercial goods. Another

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  • SARA BIRKENTHAL is a Fulbright Fellow researching economic and trade policy in Bahrain. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Diplomat.
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