Meet the welcoming party at Dubai’s new Apple store in Mall of the Emirates - a mall that has previously always been known for its vast indoor ski slope. But on Thursday the mall made retail history when the technology giant opened its first dedicated store in the Middle East region.
As the minutes ticked closer towards the 4pm opening, the crowds of people waiting patiently in a long sprawling queue on the mall’s top floor gradually came to life.
Cheers echoing through the vast central hall of Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates.
Inside the store excited staff were being given a last minute pep-talk by executives flown in from America’s Silicon Valley.
Cheers erupted from behind the glass.
Shortly after the grey T-shirted team of sales staff formed a tunnel at the entrance and the countdown began.
Two people, who had camped out since the previous day to be the first in the store, were waiting at the head of the queue.
The first man was Chinese, who apparently lives in Germany, speaks German and was insistent he did not want any media coverage.
Moments later the doors to the store opened, the German-speaking Chinese man cheered, walked forwards to the team of equally excited Apple staff, pulled off his T-shirt to reveal another T-shirt which we can only guess carried a message for the staff, who cheered and clapped and then hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him away into the store - Al Arabiya News never saw the man again.
The second man in the queue, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi called Mohamed Jawad, was more open to be interviewed.
Jawad later told Al Arabiya News: “I slept in my car… I was here early in the morning and I have been waiting for about 26-27 hours. What happened was that I thought they would most probably not let us in, at night they’d kick us out and they would make us stand back in line in the morning. But when we spoke to Apple security they said this was going to be a special event and said they had no problem keeping us in the mall overnight.
“I was here until 4 a.m., but when I got tired I figured no one was going to come and went and slept in my car. There was only two of us – the other guy didn’t want any publicity.”
The 34-year-old oil and gas project engineer, Jawad admitted he was somewhat of an Apple obsessive, owning an array of products from the tech company from through the years, which he said he displays as a museum, filling a floor of his home.
Gradually the store filled, the atmosphere abuzz with staff still cheering as each new customer walked through the doors.
“I am an Apple fan, I have the iWatch, the iMac, everything. Today I bought two 6S Plus – one for me and one for my father.” Chirine, 25, from Lebanon told Al Arabiya News.
Mother and son, Kelly and Liam waited in the crowd for four hours. Liam has his eyes fixed on a Mac Book.
“He’s saving up,” explained Kelly “He’s decided he wants this computer and he has a savings plan set up with his Dad.”
Was he going to buy the computer that day? We asked “No,” came back the response, “he still has a while to go.”
Three hours after Dubai opened the doors to Apple’s flagship Middle East store, it was Abu Dhabi’s turn - if Dubai’s event was anything to go by, then the likelihood is that it too was a hive of activity late into the evening.
Whether Apple can now replace Ski Dubai as the icon associated with the Mall of the Emirates remains to be seen.