x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The UAE's 24-hour culture has its benefits

Malls in Dubai opening 24 hours for Eid can only be a good thing for the economy and society.

Twenty-four hour petrol stations, grocery stores, restaurant delivery and even maid service are but a few of the all-night services we privileged UAE residents have at our disposal.

But whole shopping malls open around the clock is taking it a little far, isn’t it?

Not for the UAE, apparently, as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, last month announced the decision to extend Dubai’s store hours as part of Eid Al Adha festivities.

Dubai shoppers this previous weekend enjoyed late night/early morning shopping across the emirate in what was the first of three weekends when certain shopping mall doors would remain open.

Some have alluded to the negative effects this extravagant shopping experiment could have on society, such as the increase in working hours for already overworked staff and the further promotion of consumerism in an already spend-happy society.

But in many ways the unprecedented move to make some of Dubai’s biggest iconic locations accessible day and night is beneficial to the country and the society.

Undoubtedly the step will further stimulate the nation’s economy.

UAE residents will be joined by throngs of shopping tourists from around the Arabian peninsula and beyond, drawn in by the notion of instantly shopping whatever their time of arrival and getting in last-minute purchases no matter their time of departure.

Keeping centres such as The Dubai Mall, the largest and most visited mall in the world, and Mall of the Emirates (one of the most profitable malls in the world, bringing in three times the industry average per square foot according to the International Council of Shopping Centres) open longer during a major holiday just makes economical sense.

Fear that the malls would remain empty during the extended hours of operation, besides a few questionable characters, can be quelled as many Emirati residents and their families tend to be night owls.

Late-night excursions are the norm in a part of the world where temperatures can be unforgiving during daylight.

As my nephews and nieces have demonstrated to me many times, many children have ridiculously late bedtimes in the Emirates, making late-night mall outings a family affair.

Furthermore, malls in the UAE are no longer just consumer capitals anymore.

Their walkways are some of the busiest pedestrian streets in the nation, providing pleasant strolls where the majority of streets do not.

Their restaurants and cafes are centres of discussion and engagement.

They provide activities of all sorts for all ages, providing theatres and live performances for entertainment, skiing and scuba diving for sports, and children’s centres for education. All of this is packaged in a controlled comfortable climate, sheltering visitors from a usually hot and humid environment outside.

With shopping malls being one, if not the main attraction, boasting a safe environment at any time of the day or night and possessing residents that score high in consumer confidence, it is hard to imagine this experiment being more successful anywhere other than Dubai.

Shopaholics who will have enjoyed getting their late-night purchasing fix this Eid are likely to see more shopping all-nighters.

 

Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter at The National and a returning Emirati who grew up largely in the US