Shining Beacon


Zeinab Saiwalla visits The Galleria at Sowwah Square to get a sneak preview of Abu Dhabi’s newest shopping mall, designed to become a landmark in the city’s up and coming commercial business district

Almost every new building aspires to have a unique selling point, one that will attract visitors in droves and hopefully receive accolades from around the world. Dubai Mall has its size to boast, Burj Khalifa, its height, Cayan Tower, its twisting structure and Mall of the Emirates, an indoor ski slope.

The Galleria, located on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, which is set to open its doors on August 6th, is banking on its one-of-a-kind, $25 million roof structure, designed by world-famous architectural firm RFR, and an ultra luxury tenant-list to attract throngs of shoppers from across the UAE.


Currently, Sowwah Square comprises of four commercial towers, already home to a mix of blue-chip global and regional companies including Deloitte and JP Morgan, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, and the Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel.

“The idea is that when this whole thing gels together, The Galleria will be the one development that connects everything else together. Its purpose is to create harmony between all the buildings in Sowwah Square and to create a symbiotic relationship,” explains Andrew Tonner, senior vice president, project management, Gulf Related.

Designed by Elkus Manfredi and Benoy, The Galleria will feature a prestigious mix of retailers alongside a comprehensive F&B offering, including signature chef-driven and fine-dining restaurants like Zuma and Almaz by Momo.

Although the mall is situated in the heart of Sowwah Square, surrounded by commercial towers and financial organisations, The Galleria’s target audience is not just limited to the professionals working in these buildings.

Rather, as Tonner explains, the aspiration for the project is to have it become an icon for the city.

“What we are trying to create here is a venue that will become a noted location. You will not just meet your friends at The Galleria. You are going to be in our great room and it will be like saying ‘I will meet you at Trafalgar Square.’”

The underlying reason for this, as Tonner lets known during the interview was to “build something that stops the hemorrhaging to other malls, but predominantly to Dubai.”

He continues: “The people have seen the products in magazines and they want to buy these luxury items, but they want it at their doorstep. We are simply responding to the market place but we had to create an environment that was commensurate with the luxury aspirations of the people, and I truly think that we have done it.”

Right from the onset, when Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Related joined Mubadala Real Estate & Infrastructure (MREI) to co-develop The Galleria in 2011, they envisioned to transform the 33,000 m2 plot allocated for a retail complex in Sowwah Square into a luxury shopping and dining development.

“We know from our past developments, such as the Time Warner Centre in New York City, that strong designs have the power to anchor new structures into their urban surroundings. This is why we felt strongly about creating a sculptural, iconic blueprint for The Galleria and an architecturally significant place for visitors,” explains Kevin A. Ryan, managing director, development, Gulf Related.

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