Driving through the expanse of desert-land heading out to 6th of October City is like being suddenly transported to the Gulf; as the northern district oozes fashionable modernity and has much space to spare. Shopping centres in the Middle East have become something of an institution, and are a whole day out for all the family, which involves food, entertainment and, if you can fit it in, a browse around the shops. There’s no shortage of choice for where to go, but as one of the biggest and most family friendly malls in Cairo, Mall of Arabia is a serious contender.
Housed inside a colossal brick of a building, everything about Mall of Arabia is super-sized, and yet somehow it manages not to overwhelm. As the entire complex is designed on one level, all the shops are easy to access, and you’re less likely to get trapped in a never-ending maze of shopfronts and escalators.
It seems almost as though the mall was designed with parents of screaming toddlers in mind; at every turn there is something to distract and entertain the whole family. From toys and cars to ride around the shiny floors on, to circus entertainers on stilts, the mall also has a whole section dedicated to keeping the little ones happy. For 80LE you can leave the kids to wile away an afternoon in the outrageously fun looking ‘Billy Beez’ play area, for children up to twelve years old. Alternatively, the 13 screen Galaxy Cineplex
is just around the corner, where the latest films from Hollywood and the Middle East are played throughout the afternoon and evening.
The whole place is squeaky clean and all the staff were very helpful during our visit, although there was no information stand or leaflets to be found.
The food court is in an unobtrusive section of its own, and presents a sort of New York Deli-look which serves international dishes from inside rows of small kiosks, which offer Far Eastern, Mexican, and European cuisine, in addition to the staple American fast-food outlets. Snuggled in between the main shops are more defined eateries such as Mori Sushi, Casper & Gambini’s, and Paul bakery – these have the added touch of offering outside seating areas as well. Coffee shops abound throughout the mall and an especially nice addition to the day was finding the ‘Noqta’ bookshop, which is a free and open library set up in the middle of the thoroughfare for anyone to catch up on a good read.
Mall of Arabia is home to hundreds shops, which range from hip International clothing brands, including Bershka
, Nine West
; to local ones such as the Pink Powder Room
and Bella Donna
; technology giants like Sony and Virgin Megastore
are also available – not to mention all the niche independent stalls dotted along the main promenade. The warehouse style Spinney’s is intimidatingly huge and although it looks like a sci-fi monster, it surely has everything anyone would ever need under one big corrugated roof.
Whether you’re looking for a new pair of sunglasses or a new sofa, Mall of Arabia has a wide selection to choose from, and even boasts Al Tarek car showroom. Somewhat deficient, however, is their range of book and stationary shops, as there is only the option of a few sparingly stacked shelves at Virgin Megastores or Alef Bookstore
– which we managed to locate despite it being tucked away behind the construction site of a new ‘7D’ simulator ride.
Unique to Mall of Arabia is its exotic looking, tree-lined, central courtyard which provides a relaxing atmosphere, with enough space for kids to run about in or ride the fun-sized train, while adults lounge in the open-air cafés and enjoy the spectacle of the ‘Dancing Fountain’, which is a must-see if you stay late enough to catch the lights and music show. The fountain is the pride and joy of Mall of Arabia, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some of the spectators made the trip specifically to marvel at its wonder.
Parking is free at the mall, and although it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, shoppers are left with the need for nothing as cash points, childcare and pharmacies are all provided onsite. Mall of Arabia takes advantage of its unlimited desert setting so patrons can enjoy a stress-free shop as they stroll through the wide walkways, which proved difficult to clog despite all the trolleys and pushchairs about.
To their credit, Mall of Arabia keeps it simple, and opts for a quiet and clean experience rather than the be-dazzling wow-factor endemic some other large shopping centres resort to. As they are currently in the middle of an expansion project, which will add another floor and push their shop number up to 900, we will be curious to see whether amid all this Mall of Arabia will be able to retain its calming charm.