x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sharks add 'leisure' to Dubai Mall shopping

Shoppers at The Dubai Mall will soon be able to watch sharks when they want a break from coffee and fashion.

A sand tiger shark swims in its new home in the Dubai Aquarium.
A sand tiger shark swims in its new home in the Dubai Aquarium.

DUBAI // Shoppers at The Dubai Mall will soon be able to watch sand tiger sharks when they want a break from cappuccinos and fashions. The first batch of 30 sharks destined for Dubai Aquarium arrived recently and will be joined by more than 400 other sharks and rays by Aug 28, when The Dubai Mall's marine centre opens its doors. The sharks will be just a few of the 33,000 marine animals in the aquarium, said Yousif al Ali, the general manager of the mall.

"With the largest viewing panel in the world, Dubai Aquarium is a fascinating attraction that will appeal to visitors. Apart from its leisure aspect, the aquarium will also educate visitors on the fascinating array of aquatic life," he added. Also known as grey nurse sharks, sand tiger sharks can grow up to 3.5 metres long and, while not aggressive, can grow 30,000 teeth over a lifetime. The aquarium, part of the Dh73 billion (US$19.8bn) Downtown Burj Dubai development, will be the third marine centre to open in Dubai this year.

A dolphinarium opened at Creek Park in May and a second dolphin centre will open at The Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah this summer. The aquariums, particularly those with performing dolphins, have drawn criticism from marine welfare groups, who say the mammals have been trapped in the wild and shipped to the UAE for entertainment value. However, Paul Hamilton, the curator of Dubai Aquarium, said the sharks were being well looked after.

"Total care was taken in the transportation of the sharks, which are now adapting to their new environment," he said. "The management of marine species for Dubai Aquarium involves careful logistical planning and we are working with a highly qualified and vastly experienced staff. Sand tiger sharks are amazing creatures and their arrival to the aquarium marks a major milestone for the project." Mr Hamilton added that the shipment of the sharks complied with strict international guidelines.

More than just hectares of retail outlets, malls in Dubai are becoming as focused on entertainment as they are on shops and supermarkets. A cricket stadium, the world's biggest Bollywood cinema, Cirque du Soleil and an indoor garden the size of two football pitches are among the plans for Dubai's next generation of shopping malls. Within five years, Dubai will have the world's three largest shopping centres.

Plans for malls on Palm Jumeirah and Palm Deira are already under way. The latter, with a huge indoor garden area, will eventually become the city's biggest mall. It will also have the largest internal space in the world. At 250 metres by 250 metres, the indoor garden will be twice the size of London's Wembley Stadium. The Palm Jumeirah mall will feature the Middle East's largest complex of restaurants and an 1,800-seat theatre with a permanent Dubai-themed Cirque du Soleil show. A fourth shopping centre, the Great Mall, will be built near International City.

Although not the largest, The Dubai Mall is expected to be one of the most extravagant. It will boast a retractable glass roof, which will be opened during the cooler months and closed during rainstorms and when temperatures climb too high. The roof will cover an area called The Grove. Designed as a promenade, it will feature plants and pavements lined with shops. The roof, made from glass and a special tensile fabric, has been designed to abide by the green criteria now in force for new developments and is a first for the Middle East.

In addition to the giant aquarium, there will be an Olympic-sized ice rink, the world's largest gold souk, more than 1,200 shops and 120 restaurants and the region's first Sega computer game indoor theme park. garis@thenational.ae