Timeframe: The Galleria Al Maryah Island 10 years on

The mall, which opened in 2013, is a major player on Abu Dhabi's retail, dining and entertainment scene

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The Galleria on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, marking the milestone as “a decade of luxury”.

The mall is home to numerous luxury retailers, from Hermes and Chanel, to Cartier and Louis Vuitton. Many of these were debuting in the capital for the first time, including Aspinal of London, Boucheron, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, when they opened at the mall.

Aside from fashion, the venue has also become a dining destination, with Zuma opening in 2014, followed by restaurants such as the Michelin-starred 99 Sushi, Coya and LPM opening within a few months of one another in 2017.

The latest restaurant to launch was Dubai favourite Flamingo Room by tashas last month.

Many of these dining venues are set on a picturesque promenade, which is also home to an Apple store above a water feature.

Families, too, are catered to, with Xtreme Zone, Droplets by Caboodle, Zero Latency and the region's first National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, while book lovers have Kinokuniya; and staycationers and tourists can book a stay at Rosewood or Four Seasons, each a stone's throw from the main mall. Residents can also look forward to Mission: Play! by Mattel family entertainment centre, which is scheduled to open next year.

Becoming a well-rounded destination was always the end game. In 2007, Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund Mubadala began the development of Sowwah Island into a metropolis in its own right. The aim was for it to become the central business district of the capital, with a mix of high-end residential and commercial buildings. The first few of these opened in 2011, including what is now called Abu Dhabi Global Market Square.

As the island gained traction, the government decided to rename it Al Maryah in 2012, referring to a historical village in Liwa Oasis abundantly inhabited by purebred Arabian oryx. This marked a new chapter in the island's evolution, as well as signalling the fierce ambitions of the Abu Dhabi wealth fund to transform Al Maryah Island into a bustling pocket of the UAE's rapidly modernising capital.

The Al Maryah Island mall launched with 50 retailers, and has since expanded in phases. Now it has more than 400 outlets, the majority of which are global brands.

A major expansion in 2019 helped to raise its profile. Not only did the 21-screen Vox Cinemas open, but the upgrade also included 270 shops, many of them high street, and 70 restaurants, plus three rooftop parks.

"What resulted was not just a physical transformation, but a complete reimagination of high-street fashion, casual dining and entertainment all in one place," David Robinson, chief executive at Al Maryah Retail Company, tells The National. "Building upon the established Luxury Collection, this opened the destination to wider residential and tourist demographics."

Entertainment-wise, the mall has hosted concerts with artists such as Amr Diab and Myriam Fares; and has put on cultural events from Chinese New Year to an annual Christmas Winter Wonderland.

The launch of The Galleria in 2013, then, was monumental not only for the city's retail scene, but also for Abu Dhabi's ambition to elevate the lifestyle of its residents.

Updated: December 12, 2023, 6:55 AM