I’ve completed a month here in Dubai! UNBELIEVABLE. And to say that I haven’t been to any of the city’s supermalls yet, would be plain ridiculous. While the city’s joyful flock to the best of the retail centres this Eid weekend, I take this opportunity to wish everyone Eid Mubarak!
Supermalls, yes. I’ve been to malls across the planet, and I must say that those featured in this post, even beat my grand Christmas mall experiences in Kuala Lumpur- and my pictures certainly don’t live up to their grandeur (as there is only so much a smartphone camera can do). The spread, the capacity, the monumentality of these malls of Dubai render me a small-town girl feel as I grew up in Muscat, the capital city of Oman- that I believe has still under 10 malls, over a span of something like a little over a decade. On the other hand, it is safe to say that Dubai is home to something like 80 malls!
So yeah, it’s definitely beyond my scope to review the experience of each and everyone of these massive retail centres, nor am I much of a regular mall-goer. However, Dubai’s malls change just that- by the wholesome experience they provide. It seems like all these giant doctors of retail therapy are in competition for the title of the biggest and brightest! But before I delve any more into the shopping experience here in Dubai, let’s explore how it all really started.
1867. Paris. It was here and when the Le Bon Marché as a building type came into the picture. Large, fashionable, multi-storied buildings that consisted of several department store units which in turn surrounded an atrium bathed in light, so as to accentuate the quality and variety of luxury goods being offered to the public, at such a palatial scale. Soon they were characterised by light courts, fashionable restaurants, salons, reading rooms, and a monumental staircase with balconies that allowed folks a 360 degree view of the magnificent extent of the bon marché.
The concept remains the same. Today, we have arcades and mini-amusement parks along the likes of Magic Planet and a filmy abundance in the form of cinemas that form part of the extra-shopping experience of these supermalls. In fact, malls of Dubai go the extra mile with this entertainment factor.
Dubai Mall, easily the world’s largest largest mall in terms of area, features an ice rink, dinosaur exhibits, a dancing fountain, aquarium, arcade, amusement park, cinema and of course, offers visits to the top of its neighbour, the one and only The Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building). To get to the Dubai Mall from the metro station named after it, is a long, long moving walkway that circles around the Burj.
The Ramadhan Effect
The holy month of Ramadhan, sure added another flavour to the mall experience at Dubai. From designer brands to even the popular convenient store Carrefour, retail stores offer humongous Ramadhan discounts and attractive deals. Beautiful Islamic decorations add to the season’s hospitality, and past iftar (when Muslims break the fast), the restaurants are packed! Cultural performances crowd the many atria of the average mall, entertaining the onlookers from the balconies. Fortunately for the majority of the population that consists of non-Muslim expatriates, that don’t fast or observe Ramadhan, some malls have food courts that are barricaded off during fasting hours for entry of only non-Muslims and remain open to the non-fasting public. A good move and mall-going incentive, because it encourages a high visitor influx during a time when the public is forbidden from eating and drinking in public (as in most Islamic countries, consuming food and drink in public during fasting hours is illegal).
Luxury in convenience
The supermalls of Dubai continue to evolve with this day and age. They are truly Dubai’s way-finders: even metro stations are named after them. Most of them actually have websites, highly active advertising, complete Wi-Fi coverage and other technologies that I am yet to know of. One commendable feature though, is that some of these huge multi-storeyed mall parking garages feature a sensor parking guidance system. Such an efficient parking management system (that I had never seen elsewhere earlier) helps keep track of vacant parking spaces and saves valuable ‘searching-for-parking’ time, with the help of its circular LED indicators that are placed right above each parking bay. A ‘green’ one signifies a vacant spot and a ‘red’, taken. What an effective way to reduce mall-going congestion and redirect traffic in a massive city like Dubai!
Needless to say, the supermalls of Dubai are essential to its lifestyle, entertainment, tourism and much more. Whether you’re a selfie-obsessed bevy of teenage girls, a couple that really needs to shops for family necessities, a group of ‘bros’ looking for some weekend entertainment or a single woman who wants to explore the scale of the mall by herself..what a habitat for world-class retail therapy !