Deserted. The inside view of the Al Arab Mall on Al Taawuun Roundabout in Sharjah. Image Credit: Abhishek Sengupta/XPRESS

SHARJAH From the outside it looks just like any other mall – big, opulent and fashionably lit at night for the month of Ramadan. Only when you take a peek inside will you discover that Al Arab Mall on the Al Taawuun Roundabout in Sharjah isn’t your regular family and retail destination.

A Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) branch office, exchange house, clinic and pharmacy are pretty much what’s the mall’s retail map is all about.

“Looking at its lights and line-up of parked cars, I got fooled. Only when I reached the entrance I found the gates were closed and all lights inside were off,” says Faisal Javed. “There was not even a security guard around.”

Food court

Al Tawwuun resident Roshni says the mall wears a deserted look even during afternoons since Spinney’s moved out a fortnight ago. “With them gone, no one bothers stepping into the place,” she says.

Over the years, several offices, banks and shops including a popular confectionery and an Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) office have moved out of the mall, known formerly as the Al Tawwuun Mall. “It’s got worse in recent months with many more establishments folding up,” said a staff working in one of the few shops that still operate in the three-storey mall. “We haven’t had a single customer for days. We consider ourselves lucky if one turns up,” said the staff of one of the eight remaining stores that occupy only five per cent of the mall’s retail area.

When XPRESS visited the place, even the food court on the third floor was glaringly empty. Upturned chairs occupied the tables as restaurants remained shut. Marina Haas who ran the popular Russian Traditions restaurant here says she was told by the management to vacate by June after she refused to pay increased rents. “Like others I had no choice but to move out,” said Haas who has taken her restaurant to the nearby Al Ansar Mall.

Ehsan Abdallah Ahmad, the HR and Leasing Manager of Al Arab Mall, said the Saudi-owned entity is in the midst of a ‘renovation’ drive. “We are going through a transformation. Carrefour is going to arrive soon in place of Spinney’s and there will be new F&B brands including the usual fast food favourites. In the future we will even have a cinema,” he told XPRESS.