So you’re taking me to just another mall? Al Ghurair Centre isn’t just any mall. It was the first shopping centre to be built in the UAE. It opened its doors in 1981, back when most of Dubai was sand, and no-one had even dreamed of putting anything like ski slopes or aquariums in malls. You could say it’s like stepping into an important part of Dubai’s history.
Does that mean it’s just a shopping museum? It hasn’t been completely untouched since the the ’80s, so not quite. In fact, the mall saw a major refurbishment in 2014, so a lot of it is still fairly new. Right in the centre is a high-tech fountain, with jets propelling the water as high as the ceiling two storeys above. Of course there are still plenty of shops, from Jashanmal and Carrefour to Matalan and Marks & Spencer. There’s a wide range of restaurants on offer, too, from the American diner Denny’s to the Japanese street food eatery, Atisuto.
Sounds great, but what about in-mall entertainment? For the kids (and the kids at heart), there’s Sparky’s, an indoor theme park complete with an ice rink, bowling alleys, a climbing wall and even an indoor roller coaster. For something more chilled out there’s the cinema showing all the latest releases. And if at the end of the day you don’t fancy heading home or you want to get a headstart on shopping the next morning, there’s the five-star Al Ghurair Rayhaan by Rotana, which is attached to the mall.
Is there anything else to do aside from shopping? Al Ghurair Centre is home to a number of annual events including DubFest, a street theatre and comedy fair that features gymnasts, jugglers, musicians and tightrope walkers. There’s also StreetCon, a celebration of urban art and culture, with workshops and an uphill bike race through the car park, and BandJam, a battle of the bands contest, which in 2014 was won by Carl & The Reda Mafia, who went on to support Bon Jovi when they played in Abu Dhabi in October last year. Al Ghurair Centre, Deira, www.alghuraircentre.com.
Only at Al Ghurair Centre Streetcon
Short for Street Art Connection, this festival sees local and international artists gather in Deira to put on workshops and display art installations, brightening up the mall and the nearby streets. Last year, Brazilian street artist and muralist Eduardo Kobra flew out to create The Bedouin, a 26-metre high kaleidoscopic portrait on the side of the mall.