If you think that Dubai Mall is the be all and end all of the UAE Mall scene, think again! There are a plethora of stunning Malls which more than hold their own against what I will happily admit is one of the greatest Shopping Centres on earth. The stunning Mall of the Emirates is one such Centre - it is a luxurious Mall in the heart of Dubai, featuring hundreds of stores and a host of entertainment. The jewel in this Centre is the magnificent Ski Dubai experience - a full-on ski resort featuring skiing, snowboarding, zorbing, tobogganing, as well as a cosy wooden ski chalet under one enormous roof.
The Mall's distinctive vaulted ceiling - beautiful
The luxurious marble flooring of the main atrium
Now, in the middle of a ski-resort in the middle of a Mall in the middle of a large city in the middle of a desert wouldn’t exactly be the first place I would think penguins would be located, but thanks to the sheer magic of the Mall, this is exactly where you will get a chance to meet four beautiful little penguins. You get to learn all about them and even touch and interact with the critters while you enjoy a totally unique Mall skiing experience, the second largest in the world (of course China has the largest!).
The Mall of the emirates is a three-level Centre containing well over 600 stores. It is a great Centre with luxurious marble floors, golden accents and an incredibly high vaulted ceiling made of glass and steel, allowing natural light to stream in, creating a wonderful glow. The centrepiece has to be the main atrium, complete with fountain and a stunningly intricate patterned marble floor. The Mall meets most of our criteria for the perfect Mall - not only is there every store you can imagine, but also a supermarket, state-of-the-art Vox cinema, community theatre, ski experience and no less than two hotels directly attached to the Centre. This is the kind of Mall in which I can book a room and hunker down until the apocalypse.
The Mall of the Emirates opened in September 2005, with Ski Dubai opening two months later. Much of the external shape of the Centre is caused by Ski Dubai - from a distance you can see the huge structure jutting 85 metres into the air, held up by two monumental pillars, hovering over the main part of the Mall. This structure holds the five main runs of the ski-slope (one of which is the world’s first black diamond run), complete with quad and tow lifts which supply a surreal experience, considering where one is. Next to the slopes you will find a massive play park where you can snowboard, slide around in a giant tube or get into a giant padded ball and roll down a slope.
The play-park features snowboarding, zorbing and Tobogganing
All of this fun aside, the most popular attraction by far is a chance to meet the penguins; so much so that you need to book in advance if you want to really get up close and personal. The Mall started out with only two penguins in 2012, but the family has now grown to four on display - three King penguins and one little Gentoo. A dedicated team of sixteen people, led by South African-born Sarah Pillay, take care of the penguins, making sure they are happy and healthy. The experience is very much conservation-minded - the most ‘tricks’ you will see them do is slide down a little slope as they’re introduced during their show and give a little wave, otherwise they are just left alone to penguin away to their hearts’ content.
No expense is spared to make sure Cuddly, Pop (the youngest), Wally and Pecan are happy and healthy. Their water is not chlorinated and the environment is kept pristine with Ozone gas filters. There is even a medical facility on-site and every member of staff who deals with the penguins is trained in either animal husbandry or marine biology. They are studied as they would be in the wild. So before you listen to a small handful of complaints about housing penguins in a Shopping Mall, please be reassured that said complainants have either never been to the Mall or have no idea what they are looking at!
The magnificent slopes - it is surreal when you're in the ski-lift, perched high over a Shopping Mall!
Cuddly, Pop, Wally the penguins. Pecan can be seen running around in the background!
While you’re with the penguins, you’ll get a little talk about the creatures, followed by a photo session where you get to take a selfie. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Wednesday, you will even get the chance to swim with the penguins for fifteen minutes. This is limited to only two people at a time, so you have have to wait a little, but it’s totally worth it. Now, Cuddly, Pop, Wally and Pecan are only the tip of the iceberg - the Mall actually contains 28 penguins in total, but only the main four take part in the show. However, once a day there is a ‘march of the penguins’, where all 28 get to strut their stuff in front of the appreciative public.
The penguins love the attention
After the show you get to touch the penguins and get your photo taken
Now, I am not some kind of penguin whisperer who knows exactly what they’re feeling, but the four at the Mall of the Emirates look to really enjoy their time with the humans - it’s almost as if they know that the people have come to see them and they stand proudly upright while Sarah introduces and talks about them. When it comes to hands-on time, they really seem to love the attention. Gentoo Pecan especially is hilarious - while the Kings waddle around slowly, the smaller penguin zips around wildly, checking out the people who have come to visit. It is truly adorable! I am certain they don’t even know that they’re in the middle of a Mall, but the happiness they express is the exact way I feel when I’m inside a Shopping Centre! So if you’re planning on a visit to the City of Gold, Dubai, make sure you visit the penguins at the Mall of the Emirates.
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