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The Rise of a Retail Titan: Dubai Mall’s Magnate Reflects on Humble Beginnings

DALL·E 2024 01 05 13.40.10 Exterior view of the Emaar Mall in Dubai during daytime. The architecture is modern and impressive with large glass windows and unique design element

Dubai, a city known for its awe-inspiring skyscrapers and luxurious shopping centers, is home to the iconic Dubai Mall, a symbol of modern retail and architectural marvel. At the helm of this colossal project is Mohamed Ali Alabbar, the founder of Emaar Properties, a man whose journey to success is as fascinating as the structures he has helped create.

In a candid revelation, Alabbar shared his early business ventures, which included a clothing store and a cake shop, both of which failed to thrive. His resilience in the face of these setbacks is a testament to his determination and entrepreneurial spirit. “I had too many starting points, some of them worked well while others didn’t. I opened a clothing store, and a cake shop, but they didn’t do well. But I took them as experiences to learn from,” Alabbar reflected in a video shared on social media​​.

Today, Alabbar is celebrated for his contributions to some of the world’s most renowned projects, including the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building globally, and the sprawling Dubai Mall. His vision has transformed Dubai’s landscape, with Emaar Properties leading the development of various world-class projects like Dubai Hills, Arabian Ranches, Downtown, Creek Harbour, The Oasis, Emaar South, and Dubai Marina​​.

Dubai Mall’s Continuous Evolution

The Dubai Mall, developed by Emaar Properties, is not just a shopping center but a dynamic, evolving entity. Alabbar’s recent announcement about plans to expand and renovate the mall underscores his commitment to continual growth and innovation. “We are planning to renew Dubai Mall, expand it, and change it,” he stated, emphasizing the importance of nurturing the mall akin to caring for a small child​​.

The mall’s expansion and innovation are evident in its recent changes and additions. The summer of 2023 saw a subtle yet significant change in its identity when the word “The” was dropped, rebranding it as “Dubai Mall.” September of the same year marked the unveiling of Chinatown, a cultural hub within the mall, adding to its diverse array of experiences. Furthermore, the major expansion in 2019, which included the opening of Lulu hypermarket in the Zabeel extension, was a significant milestone​​.

The Dubai Mall is a cornerstone in Emaar Malls’ portfolio, contributing over 80% of its retail revenues. With more than 1,200 outlets, the mall’s occupancy rate reached an impressive 99% in 2022. The footfall data is equally remarkable, with Emaar Malls’ properties recording 137 million visits in 2022, of which Dubai Mall alone accounted for over 100 million annually​​.

DALL·E 2024 01 05 13.40.23 Interior view of Emaar Mall in Dubai showcasing a luxurious shopping area. The scene includes high end retail stores with elegant storefronts shoppe

Alabbar’s journey from early failures to creating landmarks that define Dubai’s skyline and retail experience is a narrative of perseverance, vision, and adaptability. It stands as a powerful reminder that early setbacks can pave the way for monumental success.


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