A carnival atmosphere prevailed yesterday as hundreds of shoppers descended on the opening of Fujairah City Centre, the first major mall at the emirate in the Eastern Region.
Clowns on roller skates, giant teddy bears and an overflowing car park all contributed to the festival feel, as 105 stores opened, 85 per cent of themnew to Fujairah.
"Now, there's no need to go to Dubai to shop," said Ahmed Alyammahi, a Fujairah resident who was shopping with his family. "Before, if you wanted to buy something from Sun and Sand Sports or H&M, for example, you would go to Dubai or Sharjah. It's nice, something luxury, this mall."
The new shopping centre, which has a total 34,000 square metres of retail space, has a mix of mass-market brands and luxury stores, as well as an 8,684-square-metre Carrefour Hypermarket.
The mall is home to two department stores, Paris Gallery and Centrepoint, as well as Emax,an electronics retailer, and the brands New Look, Promod, Boots, Nine West, Rivoli and La Senza. A Magic Planet entertainment centre is open and an 11-screen Vox Cinemashould be launched in the summer.
"This premium development reflects the growing residential and tourism aspirations of Fujairah, creating more than 1,200 jobs for the community and addressing the increasing customer demand for shopping and entertainment destinations," said Peter Walichnowski, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties, the developer of the new Fujairah mall and and also of Mall of the Emirates.
The mall was built at a cost of more than Dh400 million (US$108.8m), a burden shouldered by MAF Properties and the Fujairah Investment Establishment, which owns the land.
Both companies stand to benefit from the success of the mall.
"Today is a milestone occasion for the residents of Fujairah and the growing number of tourists visiting the emirate," said Majed Al Fahim, the senior manager for the mall. "The mall will foster economic growth and create long-term sustainability for the wider east coast."
The mall is at the intersection of the new Fujairah-Dubai highway, which has cut the journey time between the two cities to just over an hour. It has 25 restaurants, including a 14-unit food court. Construction began on the mall in April last year and was completed six weeks ahead of schedule.
Mr Walichnowski said he expected millions of visitors to the mall in the first year.
"It will typically run into the millions. It could be 3 to 5 million footfall," he said.
Ahmet Ender, the general manager for the Arjaan by Rotana hotel apartments, said the new mall would be a boon for tourism on the east coast.
"This is good not only for Rotana, it's good for Fujairah city because this is the first shopping mall opening and it's a proper shopping mall," he said. "It's very professionally done."
He added that the mall would attract tourists from the GCC, including Oman, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the UAE.
MAF Properties is one of the biggest mall developers in the Middle East.
Fujairah City Centre is the developer's 11th mall in the region and sixth in the UAE.