DUBAI // A large hoarding with stylised Arabic calligraphy has appeared on a Dubai mall shopfront. Wishing “marhaba”, or “hello”, to passers-by, it announces the imminent arrival of Apple outlets in the UAE.
The electronics producer will open two shops on October 29, at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.
The Dubai branch had at one time been rumoured to be the world’s biggest, but now appears to have been moved from a site where a cinema was located.
Despite the UAE’s reputation as a world-leading shopping destination, Apple had been a high-profile absentee and, until now, had no official presence here. The announcement was welcomed by Apple users.
“I can’t wait for it to open,” said Melissa Barton, from the UK, who lives in Dubai.
She hoped the shops would mean that UAE customers would be able to get the latest releases quickly.
“I think it will help to cut out the grey market stuff if people know that they will get the latest iPhone at the same time it launches in the US,” she said.
Nadim Nehme, 36, a Lebanese, said that he was indifferent to the news and that it would have made a bigger impact if the shops had opened years ago.
“Three years ago, it would have been something that people cared about in general,” he said.
“As it stands, they are doing it very late as a brand in the region. They just don’t have the penetration they used to.”
He said people will buy their products elsewhere unless the pricing is competitive.
Another resident said it was a logical commercial move.
“I think it’s cool that they are opening it here because you do need to give people the opportunity to buy from the official store, but honestly it makes business sense,” said S A, a Bahraini who lives in Abu Dhabi.
Opening a store in the region makes the experience for the wide user base here more accessible, he added. “It’s part of the experience, no? To go in and be greeted by everyone – the ‘Geniuses’ – and to see the products on display. It’s always a beautiful experience, so I guess in that way it’s a good idea,” he said.
The National reported in August that the UAE was a target for Apple.
That month, it was granted exemption from the country’s foreign ownership laws, meaning it would retain full ownership of its operations in the UAE. Under UAE regulations, all businesses must be 51 per cent owned by Emiratis, or a company wholly owned by them, unless they are based in free zones.