Majidi Mall will have Iraq's first Mango, Ecco, Viss and Trump stores, among others. A large, brand-new building with its iconic clock tower--is the most striking landmark on the smooth Erbil-Koya/Sulaimaniyah Highway. If going by taxi, just ask for the clock tower on the highway and the driver will know the direction. "Most drivers call it simply the Big Ben of Erbil," says a local taxi driver on his way to the building, referring to the renowned London landmark. Reaching the destination, one would imagine being in a new, world-class airport terminal or a large 21st-century train station. More than a dozen high flagpoles with the bright Kurdish flag adorn the main entrance of the prestigious three-story building. Fountains also decorate the outside area of the light-beige-colored complex. A large sign just before entering the complex reads: "Welcome to Majidi Mall." Inside the shopping mall, workers are finishing up the last touches. The mall must be finished prior to its grand opening on November 15. Surprisingly, to this part of the world, even women work on the almost-finished construction site. Once inside the large structure, one would imagine being in one of the large Dubai shopping malls. The Arab emirate, world-famous for its dozens of large and luxurious shopping complexes, is a model for many of Erbil's new projects, including this shopping mall. "This shopping mall will look like any other large and luxurious shopping complex on this planet, including those of Dubai," states Haro Ahmed Kader Majidi, a manager at Hewa Group, owners of the Majidi Mall. The opening of the new mall will further highlight Erbil's position as one of the new Middle Eastern shopping capitals, according to Majidi. All of the stores opening at the mall will incorporate many international brands coming to Iraq for the first time, says Majidi, who is also the son of the malls' owner, Ahmed Majidi. "The stores opening up in our shopping complex are all globally renowned brands such as Mango, Ecco, Viss, and Trump," he reveals for the first time to the media. The stores, around 65 of them in all sizes, are from countries like Spain, France, Turkey, Canada, and Kuwait. "Alshaya Group from Kuwait--the largest retailers in the Middle East will have many stores in the mall, including a perfume shop," says Majidi. Majidi Mall offers 135,000 square meters of retail space on three levels. The first and second floors will be dedicated to fashion for men, women, and children. A large hypermarket called City Centre will be located on the first floor and will sell 450,000 items in 13,000 square meters. The third floor will include 20 fast-food restaurants and cafes, a six-lane bowling alley, and a games section for children and adults alike. The food court will include Chinese, Indian, and Italian cuisines. Globally known fast-food chains will also be present, but rumors about Burger King and McDonald's opening their first franchises at the mall are incorrect. "We tried our best to bring them [Burger King and McDonald's], but they refused. They still think that Erbil, like some areas in Iraq, is a dangerous place," tells Majidi. Cafes will also dot the shopping mall, including Canada's famous Coffee Time. After the official November 15 opening, the luxurious shopping complex will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The food court will stay open until 12 p.m. Construction on the Majidi Mall started at the beginning of 2007 and cost more than US$60 million. Other similar projects include the Family Fun Mall, opening in the first quarter of 2010; Erbil Mega Mall (modeled after the renowned Sharjah, a United Arab Emirates mall); Tablo Mall (near Erbil's Francois Hariri International Stadium); and a dozen more shopping complexes currently under construction. The Nishtiman (Kurdish for "National") Mall in downtown Erbil will be the largest shopping mall in the world with more than 8,000 shops when construction ends on all of its phases, says a source from its management. Erbil, with an estimated population of 2 million, is the capital of Kurdistan Region. The fast developing city lies 350 km north of Baghdad and is regarded as the safest and most prosperous area in Iraq. The city is often called the second Dubai for its ambitious projects.
By Mariwan Faydullah Salihi
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