Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The World’s Biggest Mall

It’s not every day a mall the size of Greater Manchester opens on your doorstep, and yesterday the day finally came for the doors to open at Dubai Mall. It has been dogged by delays, with the opening date put back by a couple of months, then a few more days.

I hadn’t actually intended to go in – I can take or leave the malls here – in my opinion they’re overpriced, vacuous places. But in I went – twice! In my defence, the fist time was necessity – the traffic situation was so bad at our offices that I had to abandon my car and walk home. Now I LOVE walking, but this is starting to get a bit arduous in the evening heat and humidity.

I set off home from work with a couple of colleagues – and it dawned on us that rather than running the gamut of crazy drivers on the highway, we could cut through the Mall. This was easier than it sounds, as, despite being open, it is far from finished.

We meandered down into the bowels of its parking, which is like another world. It reminded me a bit of Mad Max – lots of dust, noise, cars horns, traffic going the wrong way – general pandemonium. Eventually we found our way into the actual mall itself, and by this stage the air con was a major relief.

My verdict on the mall? Well it’s much like any other mall in Dubai – with only 30% of the shops actually being open. There’s the usual Kurt Geiger, Reiss, Zara, Mango (all at about 30% more expensive than the UK), there’s a Nivea spa (because Dubai just doesn’t have enough of these).

The big attractions are Hamleys, Bloomingdales (opening in 2010), and Galleries Layfayette.

The other huge attraction is the world’s biggest aquarium. In the mall. This area was packed. Being Dubai, nothing comes for free, and although you can walk around and get a general view, if you want to get up close and personal to the fish, you have to queue up and pay for the privilege to walk through an enclosed tunnel. The queue for this was huge. I smiled smugly as I walked past – regular readers will know that I visited the mall for a sneak preview and have already done the tunnel!

I was genuinely surprised by the amount of people in the mall – I ended up going back in a few hours later as I met a friend who wanted to have a look – at 9 pm it was packed. I left wondering what it said about Dubai – try and find an art gallery and you’ll probably have to drive for hours into the middle of nowhere. Open a mall – that isn’t finished – and within two hours it will be rammed to the rafters.

There is no getting away from the fact that it is ridiculously handy to have this beast so nearby – it’s about ten minutes on foot door to door- but I’m a bit concerned about the amount of traffic that we’re now going to have roaring past. A high price to pay for Zara on your doorstep? Only time will tell.

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