During nearly a decade of airline life, we’ve lived in or near three different cities, and with each move, I’ve noticed a theme:
Our proximity to megamalls and Disney parks.
It’s like we’re destined to live next door to either the country’s most ginormous, cavernous shopping centre or Mickey Mouse himself.
As newlyweds, we set up home in Florida, not far from Orlando and close to more theme parks than you could shake a stick of rock at. Ironically, we didn’t have children then, but that just made park visits a hundred times easier.
Our move to Minneapolis put us in the perfect location for shopping at America’s biggest mall, The Mall of America – which actually has a theme park inside it. You could get married in the mall’s wedding chapel, browse 4.3 miles of store fronts, then ride the rollercoasters and log flume.
Here in Dubai, we’re just 20 minutes away from the Dubai Mall, a vast, glitzy megamall and the world’s biggest shopping centre by area – as well as a short drive from the Mall of the Emirates (home to the famous ski slope) and an unfathomable China-themed mall called Dragon Mart, where you can buy anything from cheap toys to gaudy bathroom fittings and forklift trucks.
It’s all a far cry from my days in England when I’d pop to ‘the shops’ – aka The Peacocks Centre, an easy-to-navigate shopping complex that you could skip round, about the size of Dubai Mall’s ice rink.
Some 8.8m visitors flock to Dubai each year to enjoy not just the beach, but the sparkling array of foreign brands on sale here. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the Dubai Mall has been deemed not big enough. There are plans to add another million square feet to the retail giant and – to top this – the city also intends to build a new, bigger, even shinier megamall, called The Mall of the World.
Located in a spanking new, sprawling ‘mega-city’ – to be constructed, where else but just down the road from us. With enough room for a mind-boggling 80 million shoppers a year [I can see my mother rolling her eyes as I write!)
And just as we were digesting the news about the proposed Mohammed bin Rashid City, with its 100 hotels, park, art galleries and a Universal Studios, came the announcement that Dubai is planning another five theme parks. Assuming the projects are completed, there will be parks based on both Hollywood and Bollywood, as well as a marine park, a children’s park and a night safari.
It all rather surpasses the news from a couple of months ago that our city, which in a former life was a fishing settlement, has several flamboyant, pre-crisis style projects up its sleeve, including a replica of the Taj Mahal (only bigger) and a copy of the Egyptian pyramids containing offices and a museum.
There’s never a dull moment in Dubai, a city that thinks big – and as for that debt crisis the size of China? Things appear to be moving on, quicker than you can say ‘refrigerated beach’.