View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shop and Pray in the UAE Malls Rules Sheikh Mohammed

WAM reports (26 May 2009) that His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has issued an order that will require new shopping centres to have mosques and health clinics for the convenience of shoppers.

Mosque in the Mall Architecture
Until now, most shopping centres have had smallish prayer rooms, so this decree suggests something more comprehensive. It will be interesting to see the architecture of the mall mosques and how traditional features such as the minaret and the dome (symbols of mystery and transcendence) are modified to make them part of a shopping centre.

Shopping-The New Religion
The design commentator, Ahmad Humeid, has suggested that shopping is the new religion and shopping malls are its cathedrals. “When one enters the [Ibn Battuta] Persia Hall,” Humeid says, “one cannot but stand in awe, dwarfed by the magnificence of its ornate, tiled dome. And that’s just the beginning of the (religious?) experience.” (See more on shopping as the new religion in Shopping the Emirates)

Act of Convenience
Perhaps the cynics will see Sheikh Mohammed’s decision as a way of keeping the cash registers ringing while increasing numbers in the place of worship.

The Dubai Sheikh has enacted this law for the convenience of the people. Certainly the new-style facilities will have a mutual benefit of keeping everything under the one roof (not a bad idea when it is 45 degrees outside) so people can conveniently keep shopping, praying and seeking health services.

Powerful Symbolism
The separateness of the stand-alone style of mosque highlights its holy quality and the call to live a life that is separate, distinct and other.

The incorporation style with the mosque within the mall is likely to symbolize an equally important idea—the integration of faith with all aspects of life. This might help believers and all shoppers to reflect on the spirituality of all of life, including the connectedness of faith with such mundane and everyday things as saving, spending and doing business.

The New Dubai Mall and the Decline of the Mall in the Emirates, ETE.
Shopping the Emirates, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, inaugurated on 26 May 2009, at the Al Mizhar district, the Aswaq shopping mall, a first series of malls, which will be constructed within the next five years in different districts and quarters of Dubai. (Photo courtesy of WAM)