03 May, 2010

Al Mukalla's soon to be shopping mall

It had to come to Mukalla: shopping malls. Modern malls, a creation from America of the 1920s, further developed in the 1950s and boomed in the 1970s to 80s, while many are now dying or struggling to stay afloat in the US and Canada, and very few new malls are being built there now, if any - the Middle East is just now trying to catch up and is seeing a rapid increase in the number of malls. Lead by the Gulf states, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi - more and more shopping malls are being built across the region. Mukalla is soon having one. It will be the first in Al Mukalla and the first in Hadhramaut.

This shopping mall, under construction now for about five years, is soon to be opened. Mukalla, with a population of less than half a million people, and with very few, if any, modern shopping facilities - the mall will certainly be a most popular place for locals and visitors here.
Like other shopping malls in the region, it will be a place where people, especially the young - go to 'cool off'; with the heat and high humidity in Mukalla and with the mall having central air conditioning, most will simply go there for a stroll or just to 'window shop'. At the same time, many will shop. We are a people of consumers and importers; apart from oil and gas, what else do we export? And yet we heavily import and consume; consume much from outside.

Amazingly, it is said that shopping malls first appeared in the Middle East, in the 10th, or so, Century; when most of the world was backwards, several nations in the Middle East had very organized and advanced retailing and trade. Iran and Turkey, had large shopping bazaars comparable to today's malls. Al Mukalla Old Town with its many and a variety of shops, within narrow streets; the souq of Sana'a's Old City and Damascus's Souq Al Hamidiyeh can be said to be kinds of shopping malls; and so are most shopping bazaars and souqs in many ancient Middle Eastern cities. Like in America and Canada, modern shopping malls now springing up in major urban centers around the region, will - with time - certainly decline; and like in these countries, 'big-boxes' may take over. Big-boxes, now seem to be the new center for consumers and consumerism.