In the not so distant past, souks were the place to go for produce and a chat. Nowadays, however, shopping malls have somewhat taken over this role of a social meeting point. More than three-fifths of residents say they visit a mall at least once a week according to a 2015 YouGov survey. And with a plethora of stores, massive food courts, and often also entertainment options that put many a small town to shame, many shopping destinations in the UAE and particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not merely malls — they are mega-malls!
Listing all the shopping centers found in the UAE would certainly exceed the scope of this article, though, especially seeing as there are new malls being built seemingly left and right. And this is not just true for Dubai and Abu Dhabi, either! If there is a significant number of people living in an Emirati city, you are bound to find one or more shopping centers there.
The following list is, therefore, just a small selection of Emirati malls that stand out for one reason or another. We have also taken a look at some of the top souks in the Emirates, as well as summed up what you need to know about shopping in the UAE, in case you want to learn more about opening times, haggling, etc.
Enjoy your shopping!
This would not be an overview of top malls in the UAE if it did not include the Dubai Mall, the biggest in the country and at the time of writing even on earth, if you measure by total and not just retail area. Simply browsing through the over a thousand stores alone would take you days, not even factoring in the regular events as well as the local entertainment options: From one of the world’s largest aquariums that lets sharks silently judge your shopping choices to various sporting opportunities, cinemas, and much more, you’ll be lucky to find your way out again! Where to find this monster of a mall? Simple, just look for the massive skyscraper that’s right next to it.
As recently opened as 2014, Yas Mall is the capital’s biggest mall, only surpassed in size by the aforementioned mammoth, Dubai Mall. Across Yas Mall’s three floors, you can not only enjoy the decadent shopping experience for which the UAE is so famous, but also plenty of restaurants, cinemas, and even flight simulators. An indoor ski slope similar to the Mall of the Emirate’s is also in planning and nearby Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld are always worth a visit, too.
Not any less impressive, but somewhat smaller, the Mall of the Emirates has its own unique selling points. These include, but are not limited to, the famous indoor ski slope, Ski-Dubai, as well as a new laser screen IMAX cinema. The latter is part of a one billion dirham extension to the mall that opened as recently as September 2015.
For those looking for a bit more charm and history, the Ibn Battuta Mall is a clear recommendation. Walking through the six main sections of the mall, you’ll travel from Andalusia all the way to China, following in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, famous 14th century explorer. As an added bonus, the smaller Dubai malls are often less busy than their big sisters.
Similarly worth exploring is the Wafi Shopping Mall, which impresses not only with an Ancient Egypt-themed look — just keep an eye out for the pyramid — but also with a general focus on art. From galleries where you can buy a memento to artwork collections displayed throughout the mall, art enthusiasts will definitely get their fill.
Situated on one of Abu Dhabi’s peninsulas, Marina Mall enjoys a prime location right at the Persian Gulf. This fact, together with its rotating restaurant tower, makes for some striking views of its neighboring marina as well as Abu Dhabi itself. Meanwhile, nearby Heritage Village, a museum in the form of a reconstructed desert town, offers you a break from the hustle and bustle of modern shopping and lets you discover the past way of life.
At Global Village in Dubai you can experience a mix of cultures, events, live entertainment, fairground rides, and of course shopping. Stretched across an area of more than 1.6 square kilometers, the Global Village includes numerous restaurants, kiosks, and pavilions representing countries from around the world. For a small entry fee (around 15 AED), visitors can, among other things, dine internationally, shop Cambodian perfumes, Egyptian cotton, or Spanish olive oil, and enjoy the various shows on the World Culture Stage. Please note, however, that the park is seasonal, from November to April, and only opens around four o’clock in the afternoon.
Last but not least, keen shoppers with long stays in the UAE can hope for the speedily completion of the Mall of the World in Dubai. First announced in 2014, this project is a mix between super mall, theme park, tourist paradise, and wellness retreat, all found in a climate-controlled city to be built on Shaeikh Zayed Road. Once opened, you’re bound to find the ultimate shopping experience here.
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