AL AIN // Big city shopping came to a district of Al Ain this month with the opening of the Al Foah Mall.
The principal tenant is a Lulu Hypermarket, which is spread over two floors and has brought grocery services to those in the outlying district close to the Al Ain-Dubai highway. Previously, there had only been smaller grocery stores.
With the green and red Lulu colours visible a kilometre away, the mall has already drawn hundreds of people but is set to draw thousands once it is fully occupied within six months.
Al Foah Mall is Al Ain's fourth mall. In terms of high-end retailers and size, it is smaller than Bawadi Mall, Al Jimi Mall and Al Ain Mall.
A visit by The National last Friday evening found more than half the space still unrented or unoccupied with the second floor, where the food court is, bare and inaccessible to the public.
Residents of the district hope that when the mall is fully occupied it will meet their shopping and entertainment needs but according to management that could still be six months away.
"We officially opened on December 12, but expect to be at full occupancy within five to six months," said Gurpreeth Singh, Al Foah Mall's general manager.
That no other major brands have yet to rent space at the mall comes as no surprise to Zayed al Shamsi and his family, who live nearby.
"We are at the most outlying part of Al Ain," Mr al Shamsi said. "So it's no surprise that the big brands are not here, especially with Al Bawadi Mall not too far away. We have to be satisfied with the fact that we have a major supermarket nearby.
"Residents of Al Foah had to go to Al Ain Mall or Al Jimi Mall for groceries, but the opening of this Lulu is quite welcome. I don't anticipate that it will be the favourite shopping destination for all of us (in Al Foah) but it is really good that it opened here."
The Oscar Cinema is also set to open over the next three months at Al Foah Mall. It is not affiliated with Grand Cinemas or Cinestar, the UAE's main cinema brands, but residents of the area were pleased.
"This is really great," said Samer Amiri, 13, from Syria, who lives within walking distance from the mall. "Now I won't have to bother my father or brother for a ride to go to the cinema. Hopefully, they will play new releases and not old movies like other small cinemas."
Greatly anticipated among Al Ain residents is the scheduled autumn opening of The Mall, a multi-storey structure under construction in the industrial part of the city opposite the Etisalat building less than five kilometres away from Al Ain Mall.
Set to attract major retailers, The Mall will be closest to those in the furthest parts of the city away from the Central District.
Residents of the Falaj Hazza and Zakher Districts are hopeful that its opening will bring them closer to shopping and entertainment than the city's current malls.