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Shop and Play in Dubai

In 2016, real estate consultancy firm CBRE published findings from its survey that ranks Dubai second after London as “the most important shopping destination in the world,” a position the emirate has held for six consecutive years. In its 2016 edition of How Global is the Business of Retail? CBRE goes on to say that of all the retail brands in Dubai, international brands make up about 57 percent.

Dubai’s retail sector can attribute its growth to fashion and beauty enthusiasts who see much value in such products. In addition tourists often find it more economical to shop during their visits here because of the lack of consumption taxes. This benefits retailers too. But much of the allure of Dubai for retail brands is its affordable real estate, mall locations and its strategic position – between East and West – on the world map.

Here are four places where you can enjoy a good dose of retail therapy, coupled with some recreational activities.


This is the first shopping mall in the region to acquire a LEED certification. City Centre Mirdif uses less water and energy, and has lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to the other malls in Dubai. The certification is noteworthy for a facility of this size that houses over 430 stores, in addition to leisure and entertainment attractions that include a spa, grooming salons, gym and F&B outlets.

Fashion brands range from mass market to luxury. To name a few, there’s H&M, Zara, Sketchers, Armani Exchange, Banana Republic, Hackett, Mont Blanc and Ted Baker. City Centre Mirdif also offers home appliances, electronics and furniture.


On the first floor, Magic Planet offers family-friendly rides and games. One of the more popular attractions here is Orbi Dubai, which is a multi-sensory custom-built theatre with a 115-foot wide screen, audio-visual technology and interactive walk-through touch-points where visitors can “explore the mysteries of nature.” Open Sunday-Wednesday 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Thursday-Saturday until midnight; ticket prices start from AED 100/$27; There is also iFly, an indoor skydiving space; Sky Trail, a 26-foot climbing wall; Yalla! a bowling alley; and a ten-screen cinema complex at the mall.


Those unfamiliar with Dubai will find the mall’s free shuttle bus service helpful. It connects to select hotels in the vicinity. Free WiFi is available to all visitors, as are copy and fax facilities. You may even plan a visit to this mall a few hours before your flight to stow your suitcases for free in the luggage room.

City Centre Mirdif is located in the residential area of Mirdif on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, and is open Sunday-Wednesday 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Thursday-Saturday until midnight;


This multi-level shopping center features around 630 outlets under fashion, lifestyle, sports, electronics and home furnishing, as well as department stores and more than 90 F&B options. In its Fashion Dome and Luxury Wing, there are over 80 international designer brands including Alexander McQueen, Audemars Piguet, Bugatti, Bvlgari, Canali, Chopard, Fendi, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and Vertu.


Art enthusiasts will be drawn to DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre and Art Centre), a hub for Dubai’s creative community. Performances, exhibitions and workshops take place every evening at the various venues that include a 543-seat theatre, a black box studio theatre, The Gallery of Light, dance and rehearsal studios, and 18 art studios and classrooms.

Mall of the Emirates too has a Magic Planet with its rides and games, which include a racing simulator, the two-person RoboCoaster and a 4D theatre experience. There is also a dome with artificial snow inside the mall where you can enjoy snow rides, a ski school and a penguin encounter where you can play with the birds for a few minutes. VOX Cinemas here has 14 screens.


Mall of the Emirates has a luggage storing facility located near the metro link. Copying facilities are available as well. A free shuttle bus service connects to hotels along Sheikh Zayed Road and Jumeirah Beach. WiFi is free to all visitors. Mall of the Emirates is open Sunday-Wednesday 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Thursday-Saturday until midnight;


Located in Downtown Dubai, the mall describes itself as “the center of now.” It has over 1,200 retail outlets including two department stores – Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdale’s – luxury and mainstream brands from local and international labels, jewelry and accessory stores, handicraft, cosmetics, beauty products, traditional Arab clothing, and over 200 F&B outlets.


When it opened, The Dubai Mall made waves with its aquarium that is home to nearly 1,000 aquatic creatures. Best views of the showcase are through a 270-degree walkthrough tunnel. This was intended to be part of the kids’ entertainment facilities, but adults can hardly resist.

The 22-screen Reel Cinemas Megaplex has a total of 2,800 seats, and the ice rink here meets Olympic standards. In the evenings, one can enjoy an impressive sound and light show at Promenade, the outdoor part of the mall, with 3D displays projected on the man-made lake.

For a 360-degree panoramic view of the emirate, the mall offers tickets to levels 148 and 125 of Burj Khalifa, directly accessible through the mall’s lower ground floor. Each visit lasts 30 minutes. Best to buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines. Besides, only a limited number of “immediate entry” tickets are available at the mall. (Open 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM and 7:30 PM until closing time; ticket prices start from AED 125/$35;

On the ground floor of the mall, there is a flight simulator, the Emirates A380 Experience, which gives would-be pilots a feel of what it’s like to fly the world’s largest commercial aircraft. (Open Sunday-Wednesday 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Thursday-Saturday until midnight; ticket prices start from AED 325/$88;


WiFi is free to all visitors. The Dubai Mall also has porter service, personal shoppers, copying, printing and shipping facilities. The Dubai Mall is open daily from 10:00 AM – midnight;


If you can’t squeeze in a visit to one or more of the malls when in Dubai, scheduling a few hours at Dubai Duty Free (DDF) could be worth your while. There is a total of 380,000 square feet of retail space at Dubai International Airport, which includes brands such as Apple, Bose, Chivas Regal, Chopard, Gucci, La Prarie, Marc Jacobs, Panasonic, Samsung and Tumi. On its website, DDF boasts that it is the “biggest travel retail operator in the world with a sales turnover of $1.85 billion in 2016.”

In addition using DDF’s online portal, fliers can pre-order items from 30 days to 48 hours before departure, arrival or in transit at Dubai Airport. These can be picked up at the airports’ Online Collection Point or Webshop. When shopping online, passengers must enter their flight details when checking out. Items may be picked up at least three hours before scheduled departure or immediately after arrival.

There is an option to pay at the pickup point, but that means you have to wait longer for your selections to be collected and handed to you.  If you have paid by card, the items are already waiting for you at the Webshop.

Other services include a shuttle service for transit passengers in Terminal 3 “from the baggage screening section to any one of the two DDF shops in the arrivals.” Transit passengers in Terminals 1 and 3 can make purchases in arrivals and pick them up in departures.

DDF has partnered with Emirates Skywards to allow the program’s loyalty members to redeem Skyward miles to shop. A minimum of 4,500 Miles (equivalent to AED 75/$20) is needed to start shopping with miles. Further, each additional dirham spent at DDF is equivalent to 60 Skywards Miles. Members have the option to pay for purchases using a combination of miles and cash or credit card. However, not all DDF outlets accept miles — has a list of which ones are excluded from the partnership.

Of course, bargaining remains an ancient art in these parts, even in the futuristic air terminal. Or you can spend a couple of dirham to enter the ongoing raffle to win a high-end Mercedes or BMW. It changes each month with each win.