Dubai Mall has got to be one of the craziest places I’ve ever been to.
For starters, though it’s linked to the Dubai Metro, there’s a 3km long walk through corridors that you need to take to actually enter the mall itself. Granted, the corridor is air-conditioned and there are walkalators but still that’s a 3km walk just to enter the mall!
Next, consider that this mall has a giant ice-rink, a huge aquarium, and connects to the world’s tallest building, and then you will get an idea of its mammoth size.
Needless to say this was one of my least favorite places in Dubai. It’s not that I dislike walking, but I totally dislike walking around malls. But in spite of my personal dislike for the place, we ended up coming here three times during our short trip to Dubai.
The First Time
The first time we came, it was on Eid, and the place was jam-packed, I mean it was so jam-packed that after we got in, they actually closed the roads to stop people from entering the mall. But it was too late. We were already in and slowly getting suffocated by all the people around us.
Also, we were expecting to meet people later in the evening in the mall, so leaving the place was not an option. Instead, I deposited Snubnose and my nephew at a place called Kidzania and tried to figure out how best we could sit out the stampede. Turns out the best option was to grab a table at the food court and just slump down there.
Btw, if you are wondering what is Kidzania, it’s a kind of mini-city, here kids can go around pretend playing like they are in a profession – doctor, police, artist, etc. It’s perfect for children between 6 and 10, I think. We just dropped off Snubnose and my nephew there, so I don’t have any pics to share with you. However, they had a great time, and I highly recommend it if you are visiting the mall with kids.
Here’s a video giving you a glimpse of what it’s like inside Kidzania:
If you are thinking that sitting in a mall food court during a vacation sounds particularly loser-like, consider that it took almost two hours to get to Kidzania from the entrance of the mall because of all the crowds. Also, Piglet insisted on walking everywhere and I was terrified he would get stomped all over by the crowds. I swear, I tell you, the crowds were just crazy.
The easiest way out was to fill up Piglet with a bucketful of fries (to get him to sit someplace damn it!) and hope that the people we were waiting to meet would get there soon.
Turns out that was a vain hope. Since the mall officials started stopping people from entering the mall, our friends were left stranded somewhere outside and it took another couple of hours and numerous phone calls back and forth to actually find each other and breathe a sigh of relief.
In all this commotion, we almost didn’t see the massive Burj Khalifa outside the building, it was only when the music started and we saw the fountains and I looked up did I realize that we were actually standing next to Dubai’s most famous landmark.
Every day the fountains dance to a different tune, and to our great good luck, that day was Michael Jackson’s Thriller – only one of my favorite songs of all time.
I didn’t get an opportunity to take photos or videos, but here’s one that someone posted on youtube that captures the experience.
So, this was our first day in Dubai Mall. We had done only one activity that we had planned for – viewing the Dubai fountains and that was also purely by chance. We definitely needed to make another trip, one for the aquarium, and for our newfound desire to view Dubai from the top of Burj Khalifa.
The Second Time
We tried to get tickets for the Dubai Aquarium and Burj Khalifa on the same day, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible. We ended up going there two more times.
The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours.
I would recommend it as a must-visit only if you have small children though, as adults, we would have been perfectly fine just watching the huge fish tank for free from outside instead of actually venturing into the aquarium.
Snubnose though loved the place. It was her first time visiting an aquarium, and so she was quite easily pleased by all we saw there. Me, I would say that the most memorable aspect was the huge salt-water crocodile, which we were able to capture in all its immobile glory and the fast-moving penguins that were such a delight to the eye (but extremely hard to capture on camera).
We went for the basic tour, but I think if you are anyway ponying up the cash to enter, you might as well go for the ultimate package, which involves fish feeding and a boat ride (see ticket details here. Dive packages are also available for interested people.
As you walk through the tunnel be prepared for the rather surreal feeling of seeing gigantic fish swimming against a backdrop of people watching them. Not sure what I mean? Catch this little video we made of seeing people walking around and fish swimming all together. It all felt a little Romeo and Juliet-ish. Remember that part where Leonardo diCaprio and Claire Danes look at each other through a fish tank and fall in love?
The Third Time
All that I have to say about the third time is that it was the best. We went to Dubai Mall early in the morning to catch our morning tour of Burj Khalifa, and it was awesome just to be able to relax, and actually see where we were going. If you are interested, you can read about our Burj Khalifa experience here.
Overall, three times to the Dubai Mall was two times too many – all thanks to our bad planning. If you keep the following rules in mind, you should be able to limit your experience to a single day:
- Go on a working day, or before midday to avoid the crowds.
- Pre-book tickets for any attractions – Kidzania, Aquarium, Burj Khalifa in advance, so you can spend just a day there and avoid wasting time standing around in queues.
- I didn’t see any great shopping in Dubai Mall. Take a look at the stores but save your money for The Mall of the Emirates, where we did all our shopping. Both these malls are just stops away from each other on the metro, so if that mall disappoints you, you can always return here to pick up whatever you are eyeing.
Moral of this Post
It really pays to be very sure what you want to do and plan in advance. Sounds very obvious, right? But each time we walked the 3 km to Dubai Mall, I was kicking myself inside why we didn’t plan better.