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Sugar Rush

Author Kay Kim Illustration Graham Roumieu

DUBAI

Business has been slow all day at “the world’s largest candy store,” Candylicious, located in the heart of the world’s biggest shopping mall. It’s a Friday afternoon during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month in which eating and drinking during daylight hours are prohibited. “It’s like a ghost town,” says Don Tay, manager of the wildly colorful 10,000-square-foot emporium.

Not for long. Around six p.m., the copper kettles in the in-store Garrett Popcorn Shop begin to stir and the smell of popcorn fills the air. At the store’s old-fashioned soda fountain, an employee sets out red velvet cupcakes and uncovers vats of ice cream. Customers hover nearby, waiting for 6:48 p.m., the precise moment when the day’s fast officially ends.

At seven or so, three Kuwaiti children add spiral lollipops to the sugary stash in their miniature shopping cart. “They want everything,” their mother says with a sigh.

By 8:30, the crowd has grown, and the mood has picked up. Candylicious is returning to its default state of happy chaos. Free samples are in circulation, and the customers aren’t shy about reaching for them. Games are played. A girl runs through the store chanting, “Chocolates! Chocolates!” until she finds herself suddenly mesmerized by a giant Pucker Powder dispenser.

At the front of the store, a cherubic boy dons safety goggles and steps into a clear plastic box. For 40 seconds, he grabs at pink tickets that tornado around him, stuffing them down his shirt as a crowd watches. When it’s over, he surrenders his tickets to the clerk for a Tootsie Roll and a lollipop, followed by a kiss from his mother.

“This is still nothing,” says Tay, surveying the scene. “At our peak, we have to put barricades up to prevent people from coming in.” Eid-the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, and Candylicious’ busiest day of the year-is in two weeks. “Everybody will come out to celebrate,” he says with a chuckle. “They’re going to be in the mood for shopping.”

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