Boasting more than 1,200 stores, the world’s largest mall is undoubtedly a shopper’s paradise, but it’s far more than just a retail experience. Entertainment at Dubai Mall ranges from kids’ zones, cinema and SEGA Republic, to art exhibitions, acrobatic performances and DubaiDino -- the 155-million-year-old skeleton of a Diplodocus Longus dinosaur, on display in the mall’s Grand Atrium.
It’s a fabulous day out for the whole family, although exploring this vast air-conditioned edifice can really take it out of you. Our advice? Wear flat shoes, and hit our pick of the bunch first!
This 3-floor department store presents French chic at its pricey best. Offering fashion, food and housewares, this is an outlet that exudes elegance. Passing by artfully arranged stands of Italian leather bags and walls of jewel-colored espresso machines, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop your browsing from becoming buying.
Foodies should make a beeline for Lafayette Gourmet on the second floor, home to international delicacies from Japanese sushi to ripe, oozing French cheeses, as well as a stellar buffet of raw Yemeni honey, hailed as some of the best in the world.
This stylish shoe-repair store focuses on traditional methods of maintaining and mending footwear. It also offers custom services for men, along with a neat ready-to-wear range.
It’s located in the Level Shoe District, a shining white zone covering 96,000 square feet, designed specifically to showcase beautiful shoes. All the big names are here: high-fashion staples such as Chanel, Louboutin and Tod’s, interspersed with funky fresh brands like Car Shoe and Onitsuka Tiger. Pop back to The Cobbler every now and then to keep your purchases in pristine condition.
The Gold Souk in Dubai Mall is a very different shopping experience from the original souk in the old town. Its golden decor, mosaic walls and plush store fronts are more about elegance and air-conditioning than authentic Arabian atmosphere. But it does boast a huge array of vendors, and although haggling is not as commonplace as with the old town retailers, you may still swing some decent discounts.
Local retailer Damas started its jewelry and watch business back in 1907. Today, its stores showcase a number of international brands, but look out for the locally inspired collections, which cover everything from simple gold calligraphic pendants to seriously opulent wedding jewelry -- the ultimate in Arabic bling!
Elie Saab is the man who brought Middle Eastern charisma to the world’s catwalks. Hailing from Lebanon, Saab made a name for himself with all-out glamour -- he’s dressed royals from around the world, as well as Hollywood stars, becoming the first Lebanese designer to dress an Oscar winner when Halle Berry wore one of his creations in 2002. Anyone keen on investing in some couture with a little local color should pay him a visit.
Sauce International Trading LLC
Another one for the fashionistas, S*uce is a homegrown Dubai brand that’s become the go-to outlet for cute, quirky clothing. The store showcases a carefully curated collection, blending trendy new lines with up-and-coming designers. You’ll also find an enticing selection of lifestyle items and home accessories -- those things you don’t realize you simply have to have until you see them.
Trekking around the world’s biggest mall works up an appetite. Luckily, it burns off a ton of calories as well, so you really earn your lunch.
There are hundreds of options, from the massive second-floor food court to the independent outlets. But for proper Arabic fare with flair, look no further than Al Hallab. This Lebanese restaurant has built its reputation on freshness and authenticity. Make sure you sample the fabulous fatoush -- a staple salad combining chopped lettuce, onions, tomato and cucumber with cilantro, mint, parsley and pomegranate balsamic -- as well as sambousek, beautiful little savory pastries filled with either meat, cheese or spinach.
The icing on the cake is the fabulous view of Dubai Fountain. Designed by the team behind Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, Dubai’s version is (naturally) the biggest in the world, and it runs tightly choreographed shows where dancing plumes of water spray 150 meters into the air every half-hour, from 6pm through to 11pm.
The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
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With its 10-million-liter tank, this is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world. Shoppers strolling past are inevitably delayed, gazing at the fish, rays, sharks and even the occasional diver popping in to check up on the 140 species of marine creatures.
It’s well worth buying a ticket for the actual Underwater Zoo, as well, which is home to otters, penguins and the scaly giant, King Croc, who measures more than 5 meters.
If you want to do more than just look, interactive experiences are available, including glass-bottom boat rides across the tank, a cage snorkeling experience, or, for the more adventurous, a shark dive package.
At The Top is the 124th-floor viewing deck for Dubai landmark, the Burj Khalifa. Clocking in at a staggering 830 meters, it is (for the time being) the tallest building in the world. The deck offers 360-degree views across the emirate, which are well worth the trip -- although, make sure to check the weather forecast for visibility before you book. It’s worth getting your tickets in advance, either online or through your hotel concierge, as lines can be long, and tickets cost more at the door. The elevators (some of the world’s fastest, traveling 10 meters per second) are accessible through Dubai Mall.