Dubai: At 2pm on Tuesday, Dubai Mall - one of the largest shopping malls in the world with around triple the number of stores than any other in Dubai - opened to the public.

Of the total indoor floorspace of 5.9 million square feet, a massive 3.77 million square feet is the gross leasable area.

Of the proposed 1,200 stores, nearly 600 opened on Tuesday with a further 300 stores set to open by the end of the year, officials said.

About 30 per cent of the gross leasable area has been dedicated to first-time brands not just in Dubai, but in the region.

These brands include Bloomingdale's from the US, France's Galeries Lafayette and London's Hamley's toystore which are likely to do better in Dubai than in their own depressed markets.

Not only will Dubai Mall be the largest shopping mall in the world, but it will also generate the largest revenues of all global shopping malls, according to Yousuf Al Ali, general manager.

"Dubai Mall will remain the number one mall in the world in terms of sales," said Al Ali, but would not disclose any figures.

Al Ali said the global fin-ancial crisis hasn't affected retail at all in Dubai and he expects the anticipated success of Dubai Mall to highlight this.

"Dubai has great growth in its GDP and that will translate into sound purchasing power in the region," said Al Ali.

However, despite the excitement of the size of the mall, the attraction everyone is waiting for is the Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre.

Surprisingly, although viewing the aquarium is free, it costs Dh15 to walk through the 270-degree acrylic viewing panel and a further Dh50 to access the Discovery Centre, which features penguins, otters and seals in three zones, including rainforest, rocky shore and living ocean.

Acrylic panel

The aquarium holds 10 million litres of water and has won a Guiness record for the world's largest acrylic panel, which measures 32.8 metres by 8.3 metres.

The aquarium holds 33,000 animals including 36 tiger sharks and three giant groupers, that weigh around 200 kilos each.

In Dubai's fiercely competitive retail industry, the aquarium is likely to be hot competition for the ski slope at Mall of the Emirates.

Colliers International in a recent retail report, tagged the average spending power in the UAE at $14,400 (Dh52,848) per household per annum.

Dubai is seen globally as a shopping resort, reflected in the acres of shopping space currently being constructed in the emirate.

Despite high rental rates, occupancy still continues to be over 90 per cent as retailers are willing to pay heavily for a prized position in Dubai's glittering retail industry.

Indeed, the Colliers report showed retail occupancy rates to be as high as 98 or 100 per cent in "destination" shopping malls.

Other features set to wow the crowds at Dubai Mall include an Olympic-sized ice rink at 60 metres by 30 metres that can hold 1,000 skaters at one time and has seating for 350 spectators.

The ice is 3.75 centimetres thick, more than three times the thickness of other ice rinks and is NHL approved, officials said.

The Grove is an indoor-outdoor area with a fully retractable roof for an open-air shopping experience.

There is also a 440,000 square feet Fashion Avenue area, devoted to high-end fashion, the world's largest indoor gold souq, with 220 stores and Dubai's biggest food court, with 40 outlets.

Access will be available to a viewing deck of Burj Dubai from the mall, 442 metres above ground level.

Dubai Mall aims to attract 30 million visitors in the first year. Over 13,800 tonnes of structural steel have been used in the mall's construction, more than that used on the Eiffel Tower.