This post is part of a series of posts based on our recent visit to Dubai. While we saw many of the highlights, this series includes:
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Dubai Mall, the world’s largest mall, is part of a megaplex in downtown Dubai that consists of the Burj Khalifa building, hotels, the world’s largest dancing fountains, a souk, and restaurants galore.
Interestingly, while hailed as the world’s largest mall, it’s the world’s largest only by area. There’s a mall in China that is largest in the world by leasable space and the Dubai Mall is actually 13th largest in the world by that metric.
In any case, the mall has over 12 million square feet and is the size of 50 football fields. With four floors to explore, there’s a movie theater with 22 screens, an ice skating rink, a huge aquarium, and over 1,200 shops/restaurants. A serious shopper could spend all day here. Maybe even a second day. I, on the other hand, need a drink just thinking about it.
We combined our visit to Dubai Mall with our visit to Burj Khalifa and made a whole afternoon/evening of it and we didn’t even shop!
Upon entrance, we walked into one of the many atriums in the mall. Here’s a view of the one of the entrances:
The atrium was spacious and provides views to all the floors.
We also checked out the nearby concierge which had a map of the mall. With 1,200 shops to account for the mall map was quite big!
Consistent with the rest of modern Dubai, the mall looks like any “high end” shopping destination: nice escalators, meticulously decorated shops, and plenty of restaurants.
Unlike a lot of the malls I’m used to in the U.S. which tend to group all the eateries in one wing of the mall, the restaurants at Dubai Mall are scattered throughout the mall, and vary from U.S. chains like TGI Fridays and PF Changs to Parisian cafes like Fauchon Cafe and Lauderee and everything in between. For a mall in the middle of an Arab nation, the selection was remarkably international. Suffice it to say, if you couldn’t find something to eat at the Dubai Mall, you’re probably a very, very, very picky eater.
One thing I really liked was the plentiful patisseries around every corner. They really know how to decorate their shops here! Have you ever seen such pretty chocolate shops?
Thank goodness, I’m not a big fan of chocolate or I could have lingered a lot longer at the mall!
We circled one whole floor and it took us 45 minutes just do that – without really going into any shops. Along the way, we saw the cool waterfall that cascades from the fourth to the first floor:
The famed ice rink:
The biggest food court I’ve ever seen:
This picture is only of half of the food court. It felt like I was in an airport – except this food court is way bigger than any airport food court!
The Dubai Aquarium:
This aquarium has the world’s largest single viewing panel and mall visitors can catch glimpses of the aquatic life from three floors.
After walking through a couple of the floors, we were pretty exhausted. In fact, my feet ached halfway through the second floor (it was a long day).
That said, it was interesting to see this famed tourist destination that gathers more tourists annually than New York or Los Angeles… but overall, it was…just a mall (ouch). I’ve been to the Mall of America and that mall is filled with very average stores and a theme park (I mean, with that much space, I guess you have to put something in there to take up the space). I thought the Dubai Mall might have been similar so I was impressed that they were able to fill it up with interesting shops, albiet a bunch of the same shops you could find in a lot of cosmopolitan cities around the world. Every floor was dedicated to a different shopping purpose. You want children’s clothes and toys? Head to the fourth floor. Women’s clothing? Try the third floor. Luxury items? There’s a whole fashion wing for that!
It was just… so much… stuff that it was kind of… obnoxious to have that much consumerism in one place. Plus, even though they tried to make it easy to navigate, it was still tiring to navigate! At night, it was crazy crowded, too. Now I know what all the locals do at night. I think people just go to the mall in search of reprieve from the heat during the day and in search of somewhere to loiter at night because with that many stores, a lot of them were still fairly devoid of shoppers!
The one silver lining in all this, however, was the Dubai Fountain right outside the mall. The fountains were so large, the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas paled in comparison. The Dubai Fountain came on every 30 minutes starting at 6pm and danced to different music each time. Crowds gathered. People whipped out their cell phones and cameras. The fountains were on beat. Occasionally they shot up water up to 500 feet high! It was quite the spectacle. I wish there was a way to actually capture the whole thing in one photo, but it was impossible. That’s how big the dancing fountains were! Here’s a picture I found to give you an idea of its size:
If you’re headed to Dubai, my advice it to check out the Burj Khalifa (either the observation deck or go for afternoon drinks and snacks) and stay for the fountain show. Better yet, have dinner in one of the restaurants with a terrace (there are several) facing the fountains. As for the Dubai Mall itself… sneak a peak inside if you’re curious, plan a day here if you like to shop, or skip it altogether if you’re not a shopper at home. You’re not going to find anything in the mall that you couldn’t get at home.