x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Night owls roost at Dubai Mall for 24-hour Eid shopping

Take our shopping survey: During the Eid weekend The National spent 24 hours in Dubai Mall to gauge the success of the emirate's shopping experiment.

Standout feature: the aquarium, teeming with sealife, centre, proved popular viewing with patrons of Dubai Mall during its two 24-hour Eid holiday shopping days. Satish Kumar / The National
Standout feature: the aquarium, teeming with sealife, centre, proved popular viewing with patrons of Dubai Mall during its two 24-hour Eid holiday shopping days. Satish Kumar / The National

Aleksey Krechik had never seen anything like it in his life.

The tourist from Belarus, who was on an eight-day holiday in Dubai, arrived in the city to hear the malls were going to be open 24 hours a day.

"It's great. We are going the whole night long," he said.

Mr Krechik was not alone. During the Eid holiday, malls in the emirate opened around the clock for two days of the four-day weekend, with consumers flocking to the world's biggest shopping centre, the Dubai Mall.

They included Mai Mohamed, a 28-year-old Egyptian tourist who was cruising round the mall at 3am. "I love this. It's fun. It's interesting, and busier than I expected it to be," she says.

In a move to gauge the success of the emirate's 24-hour shopping experiment, The National spent a day in the life of Dubai Mall.

10.30am, Thursday

The mall has been open just half an hour of its 48-hour marathon.

There are not that many people milling around yet, but two men have clearly already had enough and are taking shelter on sofas in a fashion avenue surrounded by shopping bags. On the floor below, children peer into a wooden toy exhibition yet to open, while in the shoe emporium there are more sales assistants than shoppers.

1pm

Kinokuniya, a book shop on the top floor, is busy. A toddler lies asleep in a pushchair while his father browses the health section. The Costa Coffee shop in fashion avenue is also popular. "It has been very busy until about 4.30am, but then it gets quieter," says a barista. "The night owls don't want to sleep," he laughs. Outside the coffee shop, a security guard points a woman in the right direction, while a mall taxi beeps people out of the way.

3pm

In Vision Express, shoppers laden with bags try on sunglasses and specs for size, while the toy exhibition is now overrun by mini-people and their parents.

One child slips under the rope guarding a wooden plane to spin the propeller. Upstairs in the food court, there is hardly a seat to be found. Hungry shoppers carrying trays circle like sharks waiting for people to leave their tables. A couple sit in silence with no food, surrounded by shopping and a Fendi bag.

4pm

"It's been busy," explains Lin Wu, a sales assistant from China in the adidas sports shop. "But I'm not sure about the night shift. I'm only working during the day."

Outside, James Little, who is in the United States military and has arrived via a ship docked in Dubai, is resting.

He says the concept of 24-hour shopping is not unknown in the US, where shops open through the night on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. "It's interesting but we can't really be out that late," he explains.

4.20pm

Ksenia Rukavishnikova, a Russian guest services employee at the information desk on the ground floor at Dubai Mall, is besieged by shoppers. Without a moment's hesitation, she points them in the direction of the stores in question. "After 12am you do not find so many people, but I don't know about today. It is a holiday, so it might be different tonight," says Ms Rukavishnikova, who memorised the map of the sprawling mall in one month. "It didn't take long. I studied it at home on my computer," she adds.

6.55pm

People are piling out the back of the mall to see the Dubai Fountain. Arabic music pipes up and water jets spring to life for a few minutes before retreating back into the water. But people remain patient in their hard-won positions for the second act, a water show set to the music of the late Whitney Houston's version of I Will Always Love You. The terrace of Urbano, an Italian restaurant in Souk Al Bahar overlooking the Dubai Mall, is packed with shoppers.

10pm

A steady stream of taxis with blue, red, green and yellow roofs pull in to the front of the mall to drop off and pick up shoppers.

Midnight

Children run around a play area fenced off with giant crayons, while Arabic music pumps out of the speakers above. All of a sudden, a flash mob of about 100 people wearing pyjamas chanting "Dubai Mall all night long" sweeps past.

The mall is now every bit as busy, if not more so, than it was at 3pm. Crowds gather in front of the aquarium, while a toddler peers into a large M&M figurine in Candylicious, moving away to be replaced by three children who pose for a picture for their mother.

1am

The mall is still packed. A father pushes his sleeping child in a pushchair with two balloons sticking out featuring an "all night long" slogan. "It's cool to see so many people around," says a German tourist, Wolfgang Sofka, who is on his way to join the queue at the Cheesecake Factory.

Around the corner, a group carrying two Louis Vuitton shopping bags passes a man wearing a black T-shirt over his checked shirt emblazoned with the slogan "I was at Dubai Mall all night long".

3am

A man is speed-drawing a horse's head in the children's play area. He is being watched by a dozen or so children while dance music blares out of the speakers. In the main entrance, men in local dress dance to drums and bagpipes while a pantomime horse looks on.

Opposite, the information stand is mobbed with people scrambling to get their hands on T-shirts to prove they were at the mall all night. "It's busy outside but not in here," says Nura Alimsultanova, a Russian shop assistant who works in the lingerie and swimwear shop Yamamay.

She says working during the night is no problem for her. "I don't sleep until early morning anyway."

3.30am

About 100 people are skating around the ice rink. Most are under 30, although some look as young as 7 or 8 years old.

There is still a steady stream of shoppers cruising around the mall, but one area is now quiet: the wooden toy exhibition, which has now closed. Staff are also starting to stack up the small chairs and tables at the children's play zone as a child continues to draw on.

5am

In Bloomingdale's, sales assistants far outweigh the number of shoppers. Outside, a child sleeps on a sofa at a cafe, while his mother has a rest. It is quieter, but there is still a surprising number of people milling around.

"The last time we opened 24 hours, we had 1,500 sales up to this point. Now we have had 3,000," says a barista in Costa, who did not want to be named. "It's busy, see," he says, pointing to a couple sitting on a sofa and three men taking their seats at an adjacent table.

At the mall entrance to the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa, a steady stream of people show their tickets and take their place in the queue to see the sunrise over Dubai. Both the 5am and 5.30am sessions sold out, according to staff on the ground.

Up on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, people jostle to get a space in front of the windows as a brown haze, the first sign of dawn, appears on the horizon.

The sky slowly gets lighter, but it takes some time for the ground to catch up. By 6.24am, the sun begins to emerge, revealing a hazy day in Dubai, with only the tops of some buildings visible.

"I didn't really think about shopping. I wanted to see the sunrise," says a German national, Kreszentia Langen, who is carrying a Zara shopping bag. "I still had 30 minutes [when I arrived] so I went to buy some dishcloths, nothing for me."

7am

For the first time in 21 hours, the mall can truly be described as quiet. Sales assistants outnumber shoppers in virtually every store and there are few people walking through. Alaa Abdul Khalek, a sales assistant from Lebanon, is close to finishing the 12am to 8am shift at Juicy Couture. "It was busy up until 4am and since then it's been a bit quiet. We had a lot of people from Saudi," he says.

10.30am

The mall is beginning to get busy again. Downstairs, the cafes and restaurants are serving breakfast. At Eric Kayser, two couples meet for breakfast, while two friends finish their sandwiches before setting off for another day's shopping.

gduncan@thenational.ae