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Monday, February 11, 2013

A Visit to the Mall of Arabia

One of Cairo's most affluent suburban areas is 6th of October City.  Located about 11 miles to the north of the pyramids, the area boasts a technology park, the center of the Egyptian film industry, Dreamland amusement park and a number of upscale hotels such as the Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort.

Recently, the large Saudi-owned Mall of Arabia opened there.  Last night we had our first opportunity to visit it.
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It boasts a uniquely curved shape with a large central courtyard.  I took these two images from the mall's website.  The left one must have been a preliminary sketch as the actual mall more closely resembles the layout on the right.  I don't think those castle-like structures made the final cut.


The center court has a very large fountain pool with lots of color and automation.
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We entered through "gate" 2.  It's a good idea to note your entry point.  The several hundred stores in the winding corridors will quickly disorient an unfamiliar visitor.  We found Cold Stone Creamery right across from Fuddruckers.  Chilis, Ruby Tuesday's and even Baskin Robins were passed by before we saw the sign for Marble Slab Ice Cream - coming soon.  Well, you get the idea.  Very familiar names.  There is a Timberland, a Rockport and a Nike store.  And Cairo's first Gap.

Less familiar names are there too, like Pull and Bear.  I've seen that name on the clothes of quite a few young people.
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If Carrefour is the WalMart equivalent here, then Spinney's is positioned about where you would expect Target.  Spinney's has a very good English-language signage and great selection of tools and electronics in addition to their food lineup. 
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And, like all modern malls, the Mall of Arabia is home to a large Cineplex with a dozen or more screens.  Both Django and Zero Dark Thirty were playing last night.  I should go back and watch Zero Dark Thirty here to see who the audience roots for.
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There are two real problems with the Mall of Arabia.  One is finding any particular store.  I never did see a store locator map. The second problem with the mall is access to it.  Getting out to 6th October and back can be a real ordeal because of the traffic.  We didn't start out until about 9:00 p.m. and it took around 40 minutes to travel the 12 miles from our place.  Coming back, we encountered a real traffic jam around midnight due to several lanes of trucks backed up at various diesel fuel stations.   At one point, our driver had to cross over the dirt median and use an oncoming lane.   The total trip back took an hour.  Previous ventures out to 6th October have involved as much as two hours.  But, that is just part of life here.


SPINNEY'S UPDATE 2-12-2013
I forgot to mention another reason for preferring Spinney's to Carrefour:  the background music.  As we shopped at 10:30 p.m., the music of the 50's and 60's was playing in the background.  No, not Arabic songs, Paul Anka singing You Are My Destiny, etc.  Sometimes, I just have to laugh out loud.
    

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