The fully air-conditioned, modern, indoor shopping venue in the upscale Rimal neighborhood of Gaza extends over 19,000 sq. ft. There are two floors with shops offering international brands. It was built at a cost of $1.5 million.
Salah a-Din Abu Abdo, chair of the mall's board of directors, promised "attractive and competitive prices" in an effort to replace Gaza's traditional open air markets with a comfortable, air-conditioned shopping experience. His goal is to "develop a marketing and leisure culture" among Gazans. According to The Guardian, the Mall is part of an entertainment "circuit" for wealthy Gazans, which includes seaside cafes, swimming at the Crazy Water Park and riding at the Faisal Equestrian Club.
The mall features a pharmacy, separate prayer rooms for men and women and stores selling shoes, toys, clothing, and office supplies. A supermarket, children's play area, and restaurant are planned but were not operating in time for the grand opening.
The stores are locally owned and the mall is a private venture, but the grand opening was televised and attended by Abu Osama al-Kurd, the Hamas government Minister of Labor. All of the sales clerks are employed directly by the mall, and all of the shops use the same shopping bags imprinted with the mall's logo. 90% of the goods on sale are imported from Israel.
According to The Independent, "There is a widespread assumption in Gaza that Hamas... or at least businessmen close to the Islamic faction, are behind the venture." Hamas denied this and one of the mall's investors, Sarraj Abu Sleem, stated that "The government supports this economic project but the only help it has given us has been to grant us a licence." Some[who?] think that the mall is part of a wave of Hamas business ventures that include the Asdar Media Centre, a Hamas-owned business that combines a livestock farm with a film production company, the Al Bustan Restaurant and Leisure Park, and Gaza's waterpark, the child-oriented Crazy Water Park. Mohammed al-Araj, Minister of Economics in the 2006 Hamas cabinet, is believed to be the director of the water park. Some[who?] sources regard the park as one of a group of recent Hamas business ventures.
According to The Independent some[who?] observers believe that Hamas is investing in leisure and retail businesses because these will yield a faster return of cash the organization needs to fund its political and military activities. According to Agence France-Presse, "Hamas is also widely believed to be behind (the Gaza Mall)...that opened this week in Gaza City with a ceremony attended by several Hamas ministers and professors at the Hamas-linked Islamic University. The mall’s manager, Siraj Abu Selim, denied Hamas was involved in the $3 million project, but refused to give the names of any of the mall’s owners or chief investors."
- "1st Gaza mall attracts thousands; Despite siege, new shopping center in Strip opened its doors last Saturday to enthusiastic crowds, offering international brands, much-needed air-conditioning. Mall's manager promises affordable prices tailored for local residents", Ali Waked, 07.20.10, Ynet.
- "As the Israeli blockade eases, Gaza goes shopping", Donald Macintyre, 26 July 2010, The Independent.
- "Gaza's elite enjoy riding at Faisal," Harriet Sherwood, September 6, 2010, The Guardian.
- "Israel's Gaza Blockade Baffles Both Sides," May 28, 2010, CBS News.
- "Hamas commercial ventures thrive in Gaza's besieged economy," Mai Yaghi, Agence France Presse (AFP), July 26, 2010, Daily Star.