If you don't live in a place where staples, such as booze, are taxed 100%, you have no idea how important airport Duty Free shops are. As an American, we had never stepped in one before moving overseas and could never understand the appeal. These days, however, we design elborate strategies to maximize our limited access to such rich sources of relatively cheap booze.
Instead of focusing on all the things we could not buy at the Jeddah duty free (uh, duh), we prefer to marvel at at all the amazing products we could purchase. It was sort of an airport version of a Tsum (sans vodka) or a JC Penneys, without all the cool clothes. Just like at those two outlets, rewards await shoppers who approach with an open mind.
Here are some of the products that tempted us:
- An array of your favorite 70's -era consumer products such as giant cans of Tang, Nestle's evaporated milk and jumbo boxes of Tide, all of which make the dominant hue of the place ORANGE;
- A 46 CD set of the Koran
- Rip-off Armani perfume as well as hundreds of off-brand local (or Chinese) productions, such as the intriguing "Mr. Lomani"
- Emerald and diamond-studded Kaabah pendants
- A Samsung phone for $40
- An Ipod rip-off called the "City-tel"
- Electronic Hadith organizers
- Shiny polyester suits
- The complete first season of "Prison Break"
The duty free shop in Jeddah's airport wasn't the only thing that was awesome about it. With Bangladeshis and Filipinos checking in bales of plastic burlap-wrapped crap, it did have the amosphere of a third world bus station, but there was no security! When we say no security we mean "walk up to check in desk, put bags on conveyer belt, get boarding pass, then walk to passport control and get a half-assed wand before boarding." There was also no customs control, coming or going, either. This must be because there is no terrorism, or taxes, or antiquities worth smuggling out* in Saudi Arabia. Which is why Saudi Arabia is awesome.
*In contrast, the Yemenis were pretty tight-assed about the whole "antiquities" thing. Despite our best efforts (seriously, we tried everything and we have a pretty powerful arsenal), they detained a beduoin vase we had purchased in a village. Not only do we believe it was the first genuine antiquity we have ever purchased, it is the first item we've had seized by the authorities. Sad face.