While it sits bang opposite The Galleria on Al Falah street and is touted as an expansion of the luxury mall, The Galleria Al Maryah Island is very much its own entity. The new space will open its five doors on Wednesday, September 4, ahead of which The National gets an exclusive sneak peek at what lies within.
The four-level expansion feels at once spacious and manageable, seeing as you can spy a shop located on one end of the mall from the other end, on each floor. That said, The Galleria Al Maryah Island can accommodate close to 300 stores, of which about 85 per cent are already on board.
The first shop I see is Boots, while the dual-storey H&M shopfront alludes to the mall’s high-street offerings (see a list of retail options here). Zara and Debenhams, too, will extend over two storeys.
The ceiling takes the form of an expansive skylight, which lends the area a light and airy feel, while colourful Italian tiles lie underfoot. Striking design, I discover despite the construction work around me, is an essential part of this package.
Malls with a cinema, restaurants and children’s play areas are common in the UAE, but what truly makes The Galleria Al Maryah Island stand out is its three landscaped outdoor parks that you can play or simply hang out in.
“We have one park for little kids with swings, slides and the like; another for older kids and adults, which will have activities such as a giant Jenga and Connect Four; as well as a third set up that’s a bit more quiet and formal,” says Daniel Parry, managing director of developer Gulf Related.
A park at The Galleria Al Maryah Island. Photo: Victor Besa / The National
The latter park leads to the mall’s other standout offering: the capital’s first outpost of Japanese bookshop Kinokuniya. As The National noted earlier: this city is crying out for a proper, expansive bookshop that has the confidence to market itself as such and the enthusiasm to cultivate an environment that encourages people to browse and talk to each other about literature. Kinokuniya at The Galleria Al Maryah Island is slated to open in the first quarter of 2020.
Central Kitchens is the third element we’re excited about, which is a dedicated dining arena that’s separate from the mall’s food court. The space, designed by famed architect David Rockwell, is divided into five “districts”, named after the zones of one’s home: Living Room, Library, Garden Kitchen, Courtyard and Patio. Of the multiple “around-the-world cuisines” the space will offer, Blaze Pizza has already set up its storefront when we visited. This marks the first foray of the popular California-based pizza chain into Abu Dhabi. It operates on the “fast fire’d” concept, wherein the pizza is made in three minutes in a searing hot, open-flame oven.
The “regular” food court, too, benefits from the Rockwell touch, and has as part of its design about a dozen jewel-toned chandeliers dotting its ceiling (no more eating under harsh halogen bulbs). “You may just want to get a McDonald’s or KFC or Pizza Hut, but you’re sitting down to a meal – why shouldn’t that be a beautiful experience?” says Parry.
Finally, families are well catered for at The Galleria Al Maryah Island, which offers spacious family “rooms” with baby-changing and other facilities, which can be accessed by both mums and dads at the same time.
Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment
Parry estimates that 35 per cent of the mall’s floor plan is dedicated to entertainment. “We never emphasise the retail; a mall is so much more than that,” he says.
The three outdoor parks aside, The Galleria Al Maryah Island comes with a 4,645-square-metre indoor Xtreme Zone, fitted out with bowling alleys, a trampoline park and rock-climbing wall; as well as a Caboodle for kids, plus the capital’s biggest Vox Cinema.
“I don’t advocate flagships too often,” notes Parry. “Biggest does not always mean best; usually a full offering of a brand’s stock is enough. However, there are a few exceptions to that – and Vox is one of them. Entertainment and the movies are key to Abu Dhabi.” Accordingly, this one comes with 21 screens, including kids’ cinemas, and a Theatre by Rhodes that offers outdoor dining.
In fact, it is this focus on offering everyday and specialist entertainment, as well as food options galore that Parry believes is important to a mall’s success in this age of online shopping.
“A mall is no longer 97 per cent shopping, 2 per cent food and 1 per cent entertainment by way of a cinema. Now it’s maybe 20 per cent food, 25 per cent entertainment convenient amenities and the best edit of shopping.”
Source: The National