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Malled In Dubai!
Phil Hopkins, Travel & Arts Correspondent
Dubai - City of Merchants
This week we feature the first of two features on Dubai. Our theatre and travel man, Phil Hopkins, has been on an amazing 11 day adventure to the Middle East and here recounts his journey to the United Arab Emirates' 'City of Merchants'. Today Dubai's amazing shopping malls fall under his spotlight!

Less is more is not a phrase you are likely to hear too much of in Dubai, where $18,000 shoes, fast cars and one-upmanship are still very much de-rigueur!

And when the main decision maker is the head Royal, aka Sheikh Mohammed, he takes it very personally when someone says his Dubai Shopping Mall is probably no longer the largest in the world, prompting a very singular response; extend it by 30%. Job done, number one status assured.

Coffee, Cake & Waterfall at Dubai Shopping Mall
In this 'City of Merchants', where there are reputedly 2,000 billionaires, and 20,000 gardeners toiling to keep thousands of petunias perpetually blooming, the eternal desire to remain at the 'top' has resulted in a bustling city where if it isn't the tallest, the fastest, the dearest or the newest, then it probably isn't for this part of the United Arab Emirates!

Dubai Shopping Mall is more than 13 million square feet in size - about 50 football fields, give or take the pending extension - and boasts its own aquarium in which punters can dive with sharks in between perusing the mall's vast array of designer brands

Sharks while you shop!
And, once dried off, there's a man-made waterfall to die for, a myriad of restaurants in which to dine, and an entire floor devoted to designer shoes; even the Jimmy Choo outlet seems a little overwhelmed in this 'fight for your eye' brand scrum.

Jimmy Choo - nothing special when surrounded by brand overload!
These days Dubai is said to depend on tourism for around 30% of its Gross Domestic Product, depending on who you speak to, and there is no doubt that retail bling has become crucial to marketing differentiation. When you are one of around 64 malls, of which at least 20 are in the premier league, it's important to have something special.

The Mall of the Emirates offers punters a huge indoor skiing experience care of 'Ski Dubai', whilst the Wafi retail complex has given itself an Egyptian theme and seems to make Luxor's Karnak Temple pale into insignificance once you have taken in all its statues, colonnades and hieroglyphs!

The Egyptian themed Wafi Mall area
Unsurprisingly it is not difficult to stroll into a huge, glamorous mall to find it almost empty, leaving you wondering how on earth they all survive in this eternal construction site of a city, where more and more skyscrapers and shops continue to be built in an endless procession stretching miles and miles as the race towards Expo 2020 continues apace.

Also by Phil Hopkins...
Tiring The Kids Out French Style!
Terracotta To Tipperary!
Ryanair Baggage Changes
Beating The New Year Blues But Be Careful!
Formulaic Panto Or A Cheesy Alternative?
However, at least there is a super-efficient overground Metro to ferry you from end to end of Dubai, international airport included! However, if you're a man, just make sure you don't stray into the 'women only' carriages, there's a £20 fine!

And if you still have shopping miles left in your system, and cash in your purse, after the vastness of the Dubai Shopping Mall, Wafi or Mall of the Emirates, then you can head across town to Dubai Festival City, a large residential, business and entertainment development where they can't wait to tell you that they are now listed in the Guinness Book of Records for achieving the largest ever water screen projection.

And it's all thanks to DFC's insane water show that really does leave you breathless with its lasers, pyrotechnics and live video projections on to a nearby residential block that would make London's Shard look distinctly average.

Dubai Festival City's Amazing Water & Laser Show
"We are applying to the Guinness Book of Records again this year," beams Marketing Manager Genevieve Colaco, "to become the largest permanent video mapping in the world." By any other language that's when you project a movie or video onto the side of a huge building leaving the folk of Barnsley drowning in their own 'bloody 'ells!' were they there to witness it! And don't forget to take in the mall's Al-Fanar, a 1960's Dubai themed restaurant and a totally unique concept in these parts!

All said, when you are surrounded by malls, malls and more malls, it is hard to be different unless you are loud, proud and have something in your retail armoury that will attract just a fraction of the thousands of tourists who visit and transit through this truly multi-cultural city.

There are around 140 nationalities living side by side in Dubai, one of seven Emirates making up the UAE, and where Emiratis comprise just 10% of the 2.7m population. Equally they are the only ones able to enjoy passport rights and all its associated benefits. For the rest, it is the lure of prosperity and in the case of ex pats, tax free salaries although there is consternation at the pending introduction of a 5% VAT levy later this year.

That announcement may slightly dim the lights of the illuminated roof at Dubai Marina Mall, however the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, will still stand erect despite any changes to the tax system.

Dubai's most iconic buildings best seen in LEGOLAND inc the Burj Khalifa!
And, it is a building that seems to have 'in the world' at the end of every sentence: at over 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 storeys, Burj Khalifa holds the following records:

Tallest building in the world
Tallest free-standing structure in the world
Highest number of storeys in the world
Highest occupied floor in the world
Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
Tallest service elevator in the world

But, there is a rub as the Bard would say.
With more than 200 floors it is indeed 'up' there with the best, however, floors 163 to 202 are, I'm advised on good authority, uninhabited!

Also by Phil Hopkins...
Tiring The Kids Out French Style!
Terracotta To Tipperary!
Ryanair Baggage Changes
Beating The New Year Blues But Be Careful!
Formulaic Panto Or A Cheesy Alternative?
Our proud Lebanese guide who has lived in Dubai for much of his 60 years, beams. "The first 40 floors are a hotel, 41-120 are apartments, 122-159 offices, with the odd viewing platform and restaurant thrown in, but from 159 to 202 it is only glass and steel, no concrete.

"There are apartments but no one lives there because the building sways slightly leading to nausea!" Nevertheless, the Emiratis are proud for it IS the tallest building in the world just as the under-construction IMG is destined to be the world's largest indoor theme park. Keeping up the tradition!

This is a perversely fascinating city, big, brash and determined to lead the world in everything it does. Somehow, money seems to be no object and construction, which seemingly has been going on forever, continues apace with a crane at every point of the compass.

When Danish toy phenomenon, Lego, decided to open a theme park at Dubai Parks & Resorts, it is little wonder that it appears to be doing well.

LEGOLAND - The toy brand with the big EGO!
The last three letters of the brand name are perhaps a clue, EGO.....and that must bode well for any ambitious brand fighting for space in the eternally sunny Dubai and the United Arab Emirates!

Quick Facts
For more information on Dubai visit: visitdubai.com
Flights, Emirates Airline: emirates.com

Malls/Food
Dubai Shopping Mall - the Biggest! thedubaimall.com
Mall of the Emirates - with Ski Slope!malloftheemirates.com
Emirati dinner at Al Fanar Restaurant, Festival City: alfanarrestaurant.com
Wafi Mall - Egypt theme. wafi.com
Dubai Festival City - Huge Laser Show. festivalcentre.com

Handy Hints

Metro - no smoking, drinking, eating or chewing of gum. And don't travel in the 'women only' carriages unless, of course, you are a woman! There's a nice fine regime.
Taxis - efficient & metered. No charging abuse as in certain other countries. Good value and plentiful usually with a minimum 10 dirhams (£2) charge.
It is advised to carry water with you due to the heat.
Women: carry a shawl with you - this will make it more convenient for visiting the more traditional cultural locations.
Be on the lookout for mid-week offers and deals at Dubai's restaurants.

Malled In Dubai!, 22nd March 2017, 15:00 PM