By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent
The Middle East is world-renowned for hosting some of the tallest buildings in the world. However, the region is also home to some of the largest and most luxurious shopping malls in the world. As a result of almost year-round scorching temperatures and excess oil wealth that flows out of banks just as quickly as the bubbling crude can be exhumed from the earth, shopping is the new national pastime for most Middle East nations.
Itâ€™s primarily the elite and wealthy denizens of the Gulf region, in countries like Kuwait, Dubai and Oman, that can afford to shop til they drop in the most prestigious designer boutiques and stores from the global arena. And since the wealthy clearly outnumber the less fortunate in the Gulf region, malls go up at a record pace, each bearing a signature style to lure customers and ring up sales.
Built across 12 million square feet, the largest mall in the Middle East can be found in the United Arab Emirates. With more than 1,200 stores ready and open for business the Dubai Mall attracts approximately 750,000 visitors each week. The mall is part of the Burj Dubai Project, which is the tallest building in the world. Some of the features that make the mall unique include the biggest gold market in the world with more than 220 jewelry stores. It also has more than 70 stores that carry exclusive haute couture designer clothing. And as for entertainment, the mall is home to the first SEGA indoor theme park in the Middle East and a 22-screen movie theater.
However, the undisputed crown of the regionâ€™s largest mall is set to topple by next yearâ€™s end. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Dubai, the leading contender for the most lavish and gargantuan mall in the Middle East can be found in Kuwait. â€˜The Avenuesâ€™ mall lives up to its name. This monster of capitalism and sheer consumerism is as big as it gets with several hundred stores and plans to house a European-styled â€˜Grand Mallâ€™. The mall has already opened despite the fact that only two out of the proposed three phases have been complete. Security is also very tight as the mall features its very own police department with a force of 350 â€˜mall copsâ€™ that work around the clock to ensure public safety. The command center of the police department receives live feed from over 350 security cameras situated all over the interior and exterior of the mall.
Size, however, does not always matter. There seems to be a mall on every corner in the biggest cities of the Gulf region with most of the smaller malls mimicking each other and offering little more than a rehashing of the one prior. However, there is one mall that while small is standing out as a veritable gem in the crown of all things commercial. The â€˜360 Mallâ€™ of Kuwait was built in a perfect circle and is an architectural feat of sheer minimalism and art. The most attractive features of this mall are not a giant store or an enormous entertainment center. What makes the 360 Mall unique is that it houses two very unique and permanent art installations. The first is the largest vertical garden in the world, which was grown by French botanist Patric Blanc and is the size of four tennis courts in length. The second are two glass sculptures, made to look like the moon and the sun, by renowned American glass artist Dale Chihuly.