Ibn Buttata Mall in Dubai is a shopper’s paradise

Ibn Buttata MallYou don’t even have to go inside the lavishly decorated Ibn Battuta Mall to realize that this is more than a place to buy dresses and shoes.  Since it’s located on the outer edges of Dubai along Sheikh Zayed Road, we took a taxi (very inexpensive), and our driver insisted on circling the mall before we got out, so we could admire the architecture.  “Once you get inside, you won’t see the beauty outside,” he said.  So we readied our cameras and took plenty of pictures, not realizing what amazing sights awaited us through the expansive doors.

This mall exquisitely combines world-class shopping with an historical perspective. Six internationally themed shopping halls, each named after a country or region traveled by famed Arabic explorer, Ibn Battuta, are lavishly decorated.  Colorful tiles, arches, beamed ceilings, life-size statues, art glass, crystal chandeliers, paintings, exhibits, and more represent China, Egypt, Tunisia, India, Andalusia, and Persia.

Historical displays, maps, and artifacts celebrate and explain Battuta’s journey to Mecca and his travels through Asia and the Middle East throughout his adult life.  The museum-quality exhibition called “1000 Years of Knowledge Rediscovered” consists of 27 historical inventions, discoveries, innovations, and interactive displays by Muslim scholars that are scattered throughout the mall—so much to see, read about, and learn.

My husband Larry and I wandered up and down the halls, snapping pictures of walls, ceilings, arches, and displays.  Each area was more exquisite than the one before.  We became so immersed in the beauty and history that shopping seemed secondary. But if you really want to shop, there are over 265 retail stores as well as United Arab Emirate’s first IMAX theater, Apple store, Lego store, and Betsey Johnson boutique.

My only purchase was a polka dot sundress. Larry bought a lens cover for his camera to replace the one he unknowingly left in the taxi.  After three hours strolling the halls and admiring the décor, we finally worked our way to China’s spectacular exhibit the far end of the mall.

As I walked around the large centerpiece boat, a security guard approached me.  “Pardon me, ma’am, did you lose a lens cover in the taxi?” he asked.  Incredibly, the taxi driver had found it, looked for us in the mall, but not finding us, gave it to a security guard with a description of his passengers.  We were astounded that the guard could pick us out of the many visitors and tourists in the mall.   When Larry tried to give him a tip, he pulled his hand back so fast the coins fell on the floor.  Needless to say, we were impressed with the honesty and helpfulness of the people.

Ibn Buttata Mall is truly incredible, a must-see for visitors to Dubai not only because of its beautiful and amazing décor but also for the cultural and historic information that is slipped into this improbable spot.

Shopping malls in Dubai are usually open from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday to Thursday.  Friday is the Muslim holy day, so shops don’t open until afternoon (even though 80 percent of the population is from Western countries). During Ramadan in the fall, shopping is done at night because native citizens are fasting during the day. Currency in UAE is the Dirham, which is equal in value to a U.S. dollar—which made figuring prices very easy.

Photos by Larry Burmeier

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