In all the malls, in all the towns, in all the world, why did Jennifer Lopez shake her much lauded booty, watched admiringly by movie star Clive Owen and scores of other celebrities, in a swanky new €200m mall that opened at the end of last year?
Because it was in Casablanca – famous for THAT line by Humphrey Bogart in the wartime film of the same name – and J-Lo was the star hired to provide the launch show with the pizzazz and glamour that the developers, Aksal Group and the Al Jedaie Group, felt the new Morocco Mall deserved.
Of course, with her penchant for bling and the finer things in life, Jenny from the block is no stranger to a bit of retail therapy, even dueting with R Kelly about it in Baby, I Love You, although the lyric ‘you and me big pimpin’ on a shopping spree in L.A’ is probably not what the Morocco Mall is all about.
What it is about is pitching itself as the finest shopping experience in the whole of Africa, thanks to the combination of cutting edge design – likened to a beautiful shell in the sand – recordbreaking space, more shops and exclusive brands than you can shake a designer stick at and being in the unique Atlantic coastal setting in one of the continent’s most exotic tourist locations on the Casablanca Corniche.
It’s even got the third largest aquarium in the world with thousands of exotic fish to keep the four sharks company, not to mention a family mini theme park, the first 3D IMAX cinema in Africa and a vast range of food outlets and restaurants.
Meanwhile the environmental credentials of the mall, dripping with oceans of onyx and sculpted cedar wood, are helped by the use of reflective glass and the integration of natural ventilation which reduces the building’s energy consumption.
Chief designer Davide Padoa, CEO of London-based architects Design International UK, one of the top firms specialising in the design and conception of innovative shopping centres and malls around the world, was certainly pleased to have won the contract, and with the impressive results.
“Morocco Mall manages the rare achievement of truly mixing local and global styles in one building, where both tradition and innovation converge. It is this unique combination that has made the mall a source of pride for young Moroccans, who see it as a symbol for their country’s ability to absorb global trends and developments without losing their identity,” he says.
“The layout of the mall, which is based on the infinity symbol, creates the illusion of a building that never finishes. The 628-metre long building envelope is clad in light fabric and glass, which ultimately seems moulded by the strength of the wind, sand and water,” he says.
And those sentiments have been reflected in it being ranked among the top five premium destination malls of its kind in the world, picking up the best retail development in Africa prize in the 2011 African Property Awards and making the Guinness Book of Records for the largest in-store shop façade with the Galeries Lafayette.
With views over the Atlantic, the Morocco Mall covers 24,700 acres surrounded by 14,000 sq metres of landscaped gardens, putting it on a par with the finest malls in the Middle East and North America, and it’s all geared up to accommodate 14 million visitors a year.
At a time when the construction industry in North Africa and the Middle East has hit the buffers somewhat, the mall has provided a welcome boost for the local job market, too, creating 5,000 direct jobs, including 500 management roles. Adventureland, the mall’s theme park, features a plethora of rides and an ice rink which is the first in Casablanca and one of the largest in Morocco.
The mall has over 600 international brands, including Prada, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Dior, Ralph Lauren and La Martina, in its 350 stores, along with homewares, culture, entertainment and electronics and the first Galeries Lafayette and FNAC book megastore in Africa. Two of the mall’s most popular attractions are the musical fountain and the Aquadream aquarium. The fountain, at the heart of the gardens, is the third of its kind in the world with 282 jets of water rising up to 60 metres, set to a selection of Moroccan, Arab and International music. Visitors can enjoy the show from the plantcovered amphitheatre, the food court or Miraj, the VIP lounge where access is by appointment only.
Aquadream is a first for Morocco – an aquarium with more than 1 million litres of sea water, 3,750 types of coral and 26 species of fish and those sharks. The heritage of Morocco has not been forgotten, though, with the mall containing the M’Dina area, based on a traditional Moroccan bazaar, with small stalls and shops selling crafted good from slippers to carpets.
A spokesman for the mall enthused: “This is a premium shopping and leisure destination, the result of an innovative vision and supported by experts in the field of retail.
“It is definitely a project of the future with its new age concept of shopping and leisure destination, dubbed ‘retailtainment’, with a varied and diverse offer appealing to everyone.
“The Morocco Mall experience will be unforgettable for the whole family, thanks to its many leisure facilities, many of which are in Morocco for the first time.
“Our customer service is inspired by the palace hotels of the world, making it a pioneer in the excellence of customer service by creating a wide range of services and taking into consideration every minute detail that make a visit to the Mall an extraordinary one.”