Dubai has more than 65 malls in a city of 3 million people, and it's not because they're obsessed with shopping

Malls in Dubai act as de-facto community centers and public squares where Dubai residents can gather, enjoy entertainment, or experience events.

The Dubai Mall as seen from the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, which is part of the complex.
  • Dubai
  • 65 malls

If you are the type of person who likes to explore a country's "authentic" culture, traveling to Dubai can be a bit dizzying.

Everywhere you turn, there is another mall or shopping center. There's the Mall of the Emirates, with its icy indoor ski slopes, the faux-Venetian Mercato Mall, and the ornate Ibn Mattuta Mall, modeled after the travels of the famous Moroccan Berber explorer, to name a few.

Which all begs the question: why?

As if reading my mind as we walked through Deira, the oldest neighborhood in Dubai, Nada Badran, a Jordanian who has lived in Dubai for most of her life, offered an answer.

"Everyone thinks we're such shopping addicts. But really there are so many malls because we need spaces that are comfortable to be inside. It's so hot in the summers," Badran, who hosts Wander With Nada on CNN Arabic, told Business Insider.

During Dubai's long summer stretching from mid-April through October, temperatures make it unbearable to be outside for more than a few minutes. Temperatures are regularly around 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) and have gone as high as 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius), with plenty of humidity.

Malls offer an escape.

While most of Dubai's malls have shops that would be familiar to any American or European traveler — everything from Bloomingdales to Adidas to Gucci — their orientation is more akin to miniature indoor cities than outright shopping centers.

The most iconic of Dubai's malls is the simply named Dubai Mall, a St. Peter's Basilica of capitalism: 1,200 stores, hundreds of restaurants, a movie theater, a luxury hotel,

Emaar Malls, The Dubai Mall's developer, said recently that the property had seenover 80 million visitors annually for the past four years, making it the most-visited mall in the world.

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