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Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki: I want something other than just more malls in the UAE
May 04, 2012
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It is Thursday afternoon, so you know what that means? It is Weekend Time! We all celebrate the start of it but then something happened that changed our mood from joy to anxiety. That something is the realisation that there is nothing to do in the UAE other than just going to malls.

In fact, this is what a typical weekend schedule looks like: Abu Dhabi Mall, Marina Mall, Mushrif Mall, Khalidya Mall, Al Wahda Mall, drive to Dubai, Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, et cetera, et cetera, rinse and repeat until Saturday night. This is what happened last weekend, this is what is happening this weekend and this is what’s going to happen next weekend.

The UAE is a highly developed country, we could build anything if we wanted to and yet this is what we are: A mass of land that’s based of the concept of copy & paste, build one mall then copy all of its contents (shops, cafes, restaurants), paste it everywhere like there is no tomorrow and just rename the mall.

What we have here in the UAE is something that I would like to call “Repetitive Structure Syndrome”, no matter where you seem to go in the country you will always find the same kind of formation: Malls and empty buildings.  Actually it isn’t fair of me to say “empty buildings”, they are more like extravagant buildings built for invisible tenants. You will always find the same surroundings regardless if you drive one kilometre or 100 kilometres. Haven’t you had enough of all this unnecessary familiarity? We need to step out of our oversaturated comfort zone.

Of course we do have some natural attractions, a few giant overly hyped theme parks and ultra-luxurious hotels that have their own malls in them, but let us be realistic: They only cater to a few percentage of people in the UAE, mainly tourists and very infrequent visitors.

I want to see changes in what our country has to offer to both us as residents and visitors. If I travel from Abu Dhabi to London, then I should expect to see more things over there, but if someone came from London to Abu Dhabi, then in all fairness he/she will see the same assortments of shops, cafes, franchises and so forth. We want things that can make us break away from the boring weekend routine and stimulate us either intellectually or physically.

We have people who are capable of taking the risks into opening new ventures and opportunities, we have the capital to make these possible and we have the space. However the number of spaces is already under process of having the same type of malls or whatever repetitive extravagances being built on them. We should be utilising those resources for differentiation not duplication.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have more zoos, museums, libraries, creativity centres, opera houses, musical theatres and unique restaurants in the UAE? We need places where people can interact with each other with no hassle. I want to see more of those places as well as something that is brand new, not just as a brand but as a concept.

What I am asking for isn’t impossible, it is very probable, but all we need is the right push. If we can build the world’s tallest building or the world’s biggest indoor theme park then building these should not be a problem, in fact it would be as they say in a crude layman’s term: A piece of cake.

I am hoping that sometime in the future someone will ask me about what I will be doing in the weekend then I will be able to say this: “First I am off to the zoo to say hello to my furry friends, then off the library for some leisure reading, followed by a quick visit to the mall for some coffee and for a perfect end to the day I will be watching the We Will Rock You musical in that brand new theatre that opened on the Corniche.

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The writer, based in Abu Dhabi,
is a graduate of New York Institute
of Technology (AD). He is the author
of Under My Black Halo.

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