Dubai malls still awash with tourists, despite Ramadan restrictions

Pre-iftar can be quiet but, once the sun goes down, malls in the emirate are as busy as ever, with shopping extended to 1am in many places.

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DUBAI // Scorching summer temperatures and restrictions on eating and drinking during Ramadan have not put off tourists from visiting Dubai’s landmarks or shopping in the city’s malls.

Although coffee shops and restaurants were closed because of the restrictions on eating and drinking during the day, it did not stop thousands of people from visiting Dubai Mall. The atmosphere was a little subdued a couple of hours before iftar but it was almost business as usual for many of the stores.

Outside, near the Dubai Fountain dozens of people, mainly tourists, posed for photographs in front of the Burj Khalifa.

“We arrived in Ras Al Khaimah a few days ago and decided to spend a day in Dubai so have been going to different areas,” said Sebastian Schubert, 26, from Passau, in Germany.

He is on a 15-day stay in the UAE with a travelling companion.

“We did some research before we came so we knew it would be Ramadan and it would be very hot,” he said. “I think it’s been fantastic so far and we prefer that it’s not as busy.”

Max and Alina Frank, from Kassel, Germany, are in Dubai for seven days. “It’s been good so far and we are really amazed by the skyscrapers,” said Mr Frank, 20.

“We had brought some food in our luggage so had some before we came out of the hotel.

“The restaurants are closed but that is not a problem for us.

“We came here to experience a different culture and way of life and we respect the customs here. It’s no different if you were to go to Germany over Christmas, everything is closed at that time of year as well.”

Sisters Sarah and Tamryn Calitz, from Durban, South Africa, were on a short stopover in Dubai before they continue on to a family holiday in Greece, so they saw it as an opportunity do some shopping.

“It’s really hot but indoors there is air conditioning so that is not much of an issue,” said Sarah, 19.

“Not being able to eat during the day doesn’t really bother us that much as we spent about eight hours shopping,” Tamryn said.

Throughout Ramadan, malls in Dubai have extended their opening hours to about 1am, with restaurants staying open until 2am. They also run a range of events and activities to encourage more visitors.

Dubai Mall gives visitors iftar packs containing water, dates and a Ramadan calendar at service desks.

The Waterfall Atrium has a sculpture from Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej’s called “Encyclopaedia”, made from multicoloured stainless steel circles, each embodying information on the holy month.

Baiju Kuriesh, chief executive of the Dubai Shopping Malls Group (DSMG), said footfall figures in the first two weeks of Ramadan were similar to those last year.

“The first two weeks tend to see people focus on their family and prayers but, as we get closer to Eid, we see an increase in terms of shopping,” he said.

The DSMG pre-Ramadan Shop in Dubai campaign took place in 27 malls across Dubai from June 2 to June 28 and led to a 10 to 12 per cent increase in footfall compared with the same period last year.

Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, senior director for property management, shopping malls, for Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said restaurants and coffee shops experienced increased demand at iftar and suhoor, with footfall and sales expected to pick up in the lead-up to Eid Al Fitr, at the end of Ramadan.

“As such, we expect footfall and sales to be positive during the holy month this year,” he said.

Mirdif City Centre is providing live performances of traditional folk dancing each night and visitors to Deira City Centre will be welcomed at the metro station by a falconer between 8pm and midnight.

Majid Al Futtaim also launched its annual “Make a Difference this Ramadan” campaign in malls to collect everyday essentials to be donated to underprivileged communities in tandem with the Red Crescent.