“Only two kinds of creatures have fun in the desert: Bedouins and gods, and you sir are neither. Take it from me, for ordinary men, it’s a burning, fiery furnace.”
“No. Its going to be fun.”
“… you have a funny sense of fun.”
Lawrence’s response to his friend Dryden, who opposed his upcoming voyage into the deserts of Arabia.
Lawrence of Arabia
It is getting to be that time of year in Abu Dhabi. The outdoor areas are ridding themselves of people as the air turns into nauseating waves of heat. Backs and arms begin to stick to anything not ice itself, while the majority of the UAE resort to a slow shuffle between air-conditioned stores, cars, houses, and malls. Malls in particular become the only source for social interaction.
So whether you live in Abu Dhabi, the surrounding area, or would simply like to peer into a different world – a ‘Mad Max’ian world where life and death directly correlate to the amount of time out-of-doors – then read on… and learn about where “creatures” go to have fun in the desert.
- Dalma Mall
We start our Mall tour just east of Abu Dhabi, on the road to Al Ain you’ll find Dalma Mall. Bookstore, Adventure playground for children, and two Starbucks, with a plan to build fourteen more if my sources are correct, and that’s just the first floor. There’re two more floors!
- Marina Mall
It has an ice-skating rink and a bulbous tower with a beautiful view of the water and a rotating restaurant. The restaurant doesn’t rotate too fast so don’t worry, unless you like to run around it in the opposite direction hoping for time to reverse. Then, you simply get asked to leave.
- Al Raha Mall
They just built a walkway so you can get across the highway to access it. As soon as they build a sidewalk to get to the walkway this place is going to explode with business. It also has a music shop with witty salesmen who, if asked advice about fixing a guitar, might respond with, “Get a new one.” I nearly confused it for a monastery with the wisdom spewing from its lips.
- Abu Dhabi Mall
Probably the most fun mall in Abu Dhabi to get lost in. You can walk into the mall via 15 different passages and never ever know where you are. Psst! There’s a secret passage through the second floor of the Co-Operative Hypermarket which takes you right through the mystical forest of pink grandma sweaters.
- YAS Mall
Abu Dhabi’s newest mall. This place has everything! Japanese puffy jackets. Ferrari race cars. Trees that aren’t outside. And those are just things on the wall of the Cheesecake Factory!!!! The only downer is that they don’t let you go back into the factory’s workshop to see what magic they use for their deserts. I for one equate it those Keebler elves in a tree. Delicious. The mall’s nice too. Last time I visited, there was a man playing his guitar like a drum. Maybe he too had met our wise guitar friends from Al Raha Mall.
- Al Wahda Mall
They just added an extension. Now my wife has even more of a reason to say she got lost in the confusion and bought six dresses and three pairs of shoes before she realized where she was.
- Boutik Mall
It’s name says it all. Cute and petite. It makes you want to find a manicurist and cuddle up. If you don’t mind the smell of nail polish remover, that is.
- Madinat Zayed
A bit on the antique side of malls but it has a gold souk. Gold souk? It’s like what the old west would’ve looked like if the Kardashians had built a time machine and brought all their celebrity friends to hang out for a few decades. Der’s gold in dem der mall!!!
- Nation Tower
It’s new, and while few, the stores are quite posh. Precisely why I haven’t been there. Who wants to be posh? Also, my bum knee was acting up last time I attempted going. Parkour is not for everyone.
- The Galleria Mall
The nicest mall I’ve never bought something in. Window browsing is a must though.
- Paragon Bay Mall
It’s not quite finished, but it has shwarama.
- Al Bateen Mall
Put four shops together and place the word mall on the marquee. Genius! They also have shwarama.
- Hamdan Center
The Guinness book of world records should send someone here to find the largest collection of partially broken bronze compasses. They might even throw in a “World’s Widest Selection of White Flip Flops” award to boot.
- Mushrif Mall
Somehow, the light you feel coming through it’s relaxed dome ceiling does not inspire your skin to peel off your body and run for shade. It is cool spot to people watch, as are all of these malls, but this in particular because it is quite squar-ish and you can see everyone, and I do mean everyone.
- Khaladiyah Mall
It’s long! It’s strong! …and it also has shwarama. Cheap designer clothes too. I personally bought a nice pair of skintight swim trunks for the summer season. Get your Instagram ready, fam!
- Deerfield’s Townsquare
I have been to Paris and I’ve been to Rome. While Deerfield’s is neither, they certainly made a nice attempt with its powerful structure and vaulted ceilings.
- Bawabat al Sharq
It’s located in an area called Sir Bani Yas. Anything with the prefix Sir in front of it must be worth seeing, so naturally, I haven’t been there. It’s the dang bum knee again. Parkour!!!
- Souk Qaryat al Beri
You can find an artisan Arabic sculpture, a hand-woven scarf from Syria, and a Cherry Jubilee Fudge Sundae from Baskin Robbins’ all within a 10-foot diameter of one another, what’s not to love.
- World Trade Center & Souq
By far, my favorite mall. Not because of the PF Chang’s, or the piano staircase which I most likely broke. It’s not because of the comfortably quiet theater, or the classic Arabian souq they’ve flawlessly engineered. It is not even the rooftop gardens and restaurants that remind you of an M.C. Escher painting. It is unequivocally, and unabashedly perfect. Why?
Because it has a Shake Shack. Mmmmmm. Burgers.
Although, I did see one had opened up in Dalma Mall. Tie!!!
There you have it. Abu Dhabi malls in a nutshell. Whatever your appetite, there is no getting around them. In an area of the world where temperatures can reach upwards of 50 degrees Celsius, fun at this time of year, is most definitely an indoor experience. I may not have liked malls when I moved here, and they are still not a regular hangout of mine, but they are part of the landscape in the UAE, and you grow accustomed. So much like Lawrence of Arabia, it seems that I too have developed “a funny sense of fun.”
Have I forgotten a worthy mall candidate? Let me know. Comment below.