There was one moment last Friday when I could have been living the Dubai dream: on a warm, sunny afternoon, in a cool swimming pool, surrounded by charming young ladies.
But then I snapped out of the daydream with the recognition that the girls in question were 14 of my daughter Amira’s schoolfriends, who were helping her to celebrate her seventh birthday.
It was the only moment of relaxation in an exhausting day that began at 10am and finished the following morning at 1am, having finally got the last five of the little darlings off to bed in the “sleepover party” my girl had demanded. My wife and I collapsed in a heap, totally drained, every muscle aching, head throbbing and vowing never again.
But I leap ahead. The day began in Mall of the Emirates, where the girls had been booked for an early showing of Hotel Transylvania 2. While they were watching the film, I did a bit of market research on the mall’s new extension.
Built by Majid Al Futtaim at a cost of Dh1 billion, the extension – Evolution 2015 – is a big play to ward off the competition from the likes of The Dubai Mall, and to win back footfall to what they regard as Dubai’s premier shopping and leisure venue.
I had about 90 minutes while the film was showing, so it was necessarily a brief tour of the facilities. But what I saw, I liked – the tried and tested formula of the UAE mall experience, with upmarket clothes brands and posh goods shops nestling shoulder-to-shoulder with some interesting food and beverage outlets.
Nothing revolutionary by MAF, but why tinker with a proven offering? The queues outside More Café at midday were testimony to the drawing power of the new extension. The cinema is more like a five-star hotel than a picture house. And if it reduces the peak-hour crush in the rest of the mall, that’s a good thing.
Then I went to Borders. When the branch downstairs closed down a few months back, I cheered, thinking at last there was opportunity to have a proper bookshop in Mall of the Emirates.
No such luck. Meet the new Borders, same as the old Borders; more a children’s toyshop than a bookshop.
I suppose a little bit more thought had gone into book display, but Borders’ main fault still lies with stock selection. If you want a biography of Steve Jobs or Richard Branson (yawn) you have acres of shelving to choose from.
Anything more interesting, and you have to go to Kinokuniya in The Dubai Mall. I cannot for the life of me see why the Japanese bookshop didn’t take the opportunity to open a branch in Mall of the Emirates.
(I have tried several times to ask them precisely that, but all requests to speak to a senior executive at Kinokuniya have been ignored. The only time they have contacted me is to defend their controversial display of Adolf Hitler’s biography Mein Kampf. Please, somebody at Kinokuniya, call me back.)
But one excellent by-product of Evolution 2015 is that it has freed up space in the rest of the mall. So now, at Modell’s sports shop on the group floor near Ski Dubai, you can find on proud display the full Tottenham Hotspur 2015 home and away kit. First time in a big Dubai mall, all of which had hitherto ignored the Pride of North London.
I bought a pair of shorts with a cockerel on them for Dh150, just to give the sales figures a nudge, and went back to the bedlam of the birthday party.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter