Shopping malls in the UAE are destinations in themselves, large, well-designed venues with restaurants, cafés and bucket-loads of entertainment. Some of the biggest malls in the region are located in the UAE: Mall of the Emirates, on Sheikh Zayed Road, featuring Carrefour, Harvey Nicholls, Aspreys and Debenhams, amongst others, has 223,000 sq. m of shops and a massive indoor ski area. Dubai Festival City by the Creek near the Business Bay bridge, houses the largest Marks and Spencers outside the UK, along with a host of other outlets. Ibn Battuta Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, not far from Jebel Ali, is a huge themed mall centered on the travels of a renowned fourteenth century Arab explorer. Dubai Mall, by the mesmeric Burj Khalifa, covers 351,000 sq. m and contains every conceivable outlet under the sun, as well as a huge aquarium and a giant ice rink. The eclectic Souk Al Bahar is next door, also in the heart of ‘Downtown Dubai’ whilst Souk Madinat Jumeirah near the Burj al-Arab is a reconstruction of a traditional Arabian bazaar but with a modern twist. On the other side of town, the newish Mirdif City Centre has a wide range of leisure and entertainment facilities and you can find just about anything at a bargain price in DragonMart on the road to Hatta.
Other longer-established malls continue to improve their range of outlets, Emirates Boulevard next to the elegant Jumeirah Emirates Towers Burjuman, City Centre, Lamcy Plaza, Wafi City , Al Mamzar Shopping Centre and Mercato Mall, are just a few worth visiting. The Gold and Diamond Park, although technically not a mall, is a destination on every shoppers’ list.
For years, shopping in Abu Dhabi was overshadowed by the more sophisticated centres in Dubai. However, the capital is rapidly catching up with its sister emirate and retail space in Abu Dhabi is expected to double to almost 1.8 million sq. m by 2015. The delightful Marina Mall on the extended breakwater has over 400 high-end outlets whilst centrally located Abu Dhabi Mall spans a total built-up area of over 220,000 sq. m and has a bowling alley. The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri, on the other hand, is a contemporary adaptation of a typical Arabian souk. New ventures will include Yas Mall, which is set to open in 2013 and The Emporium, a 170-store, high-end shopping area connected to the revamped Central Market souq.
Three malls are also scheduled for completion: Paragon Bay Mall on Reem Island, Capital Mall in Mohammed bin Zayed City and Deerfields Town Square in Al Bahia.
The recently renovated Al Ain Mall, in the heart of the city, an intriguing mix of designer and high-street fashion outlets, also has an ice-rink and other entertainment facilities. Other malls in Al Ain include Al Jimi Mall and Al Bawadi Mall.
The Blue Souk (Souk Al Markazi) or Central Market, beside Khaled Lagoon, is a landmark in Sharjah, noteworthy for its Islamic design. Inside, the elegant building houses fashion outlets, a wide-range of jewellery stores and a good selection of antique pieces, carpets and pashminas. But be careful, not everything is genuine and bargaining is essential.
Ajman City Centre, a cornucopia of shopping and entertainment, is on the coast road from Sharjah to Ra’s al-Khaimah whilst Safeer Mall is also a popular retail destination.
Manar Mall in the heart of the city is the oldest and one of the most popular shopping malls in the emirate. It has been joined in recent years by Safeer Mall, which also has outlets in Sharjah and Ajman, and Al Hamra Mall. Both are medium-sized stores with a wide range of shops and entertainment.
Fujairah City Centre introduces a diverse mix of new and internationally renowned brands, plus state-of-the-art entertainment and a wide range of food and beverage options to the UAE's east coast. The Trade Centre Shopping Mall is a relatively small but useful collection of stores. Dana Plaza Shopping Centre is another small shopping centre, this time with a cinema.