DUBAI: A mysterious castaway who claims to have been “shopwrecked” inside the Dubai Mall for 13 months is now safely outside the shopping centre, according to reports.
The man, who calls himself Benison Zento and says he is an Italian tourist, turned up at a remote customer service desk two days ago in a disheveled state and in a heavily damaged shopping trolley, claiming that he had been living off fast food he had bought from the numerous food courts as he searched for an exit.
Zento, who claims to be 29, is now in a local hospital recovering from his ordeal, said the Italian ambassador to the UAE, Sergio Giorgini.
“He’s in a much better shape than one would expect after such a horrifying experience,” Giorgini told reporters.
Zento is believed to have entered the mall for what was to be a one-day expedition with a fellow Italian last January, but was blown off course by crowds for a shopping festival and eventually became waylaid by a visit the Dubai Aquarium.
According to Zento, he lost his partner three months into their drift because she refused to eat any more Baskin Robbins.
“For days, I felt like dying. I couldn’t take it anymore. Another pop-up Swatch stand very nearly finished me off,” he is quoted as saying in an interview with the Dubai Mall’s in-house magazine.
But authorities are now trying to determine the legitimacy of Zento’s story, with several experts claiming that it would not have been possible for someone to have survived for so long.
“Even when going for the supposedly salad options or leaving the sliced gherkin in the burger, we’ve never known anyone to have lasted longer than seven months eating purely fast food,” said Rutger Pondicherry of the Gulf Health Bureau. “Either this man’s cholesterol levels are through the roof or we have a real life miracle on our hands.”
But Zento, who is due to be reunited with his family, still managed to show a trace of humour despite his nightmare.
“Who knows, perhaps I’ll come back again,” he joked from his hospital bed. “I hear the next summer surprises shopping festival will be the best one yet.”