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Attention shoppers: Dubai lays out plans for 'Mall of the World,' aiming to be world's biggest

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The shopping-loving city that is home to one of the world's largest shopping malls wants to build one even bigger.

Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has laid out plans for a sprawling real-estate project known as Mall of the World that will include the 8 million square foot (743,224 square meter) mall, a climate-controlled street network, a theme park covered during the scorching summer months and 100 hotels and serviced apartments.

Other attractions planned for the site include a cultural and theatre district drawing inspiration from New York's Broadway, shopping thoroughfares based on London's Oxford Street and a "wellness district" meant to attract medical tourists.

"The growth in family and retail tourism underpins the need to enhance Dubai's tourism infrastructure as soon as possible," Sheik Mohammed said in a statement announcing the project Saturday. "This project complements our plans to transform Dubai into a cultural, tourist and economic hub for the 2 billion people living in the region around us — and we are determined to achieve our vision."

Dubai Holding, a conglomerate controlled by the emirate's ruler, is developing the complex. It gave no details on the cost or the completion date.

The complex will be built near the Mall of the Emirates, which boasts an indoor ski slope, and a short drive from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, and the adjacent Dubai Mall. That shopping centre is currently the emirate's largest and has attractions including a dinosaur skeleton, an indoor ice skating rink and a multistory aquarium.

Dubai has long used high-profile, big-ticket real estate projects to drive economic growth and establish itself as an international tourist destination. Its ambitions were slowed significantly with a crippling financial crisis that came to a head in 2009, forcing the delay or cancellation of some of the most outlandish projects.

Dubai Holding was not spared from the financial turmoil, and some of its divisions sought new repayment terms from lenders on a debt pile that reached into the billions of dollars.

The emirate's economy has rebounded strongly in the years since the crisis, driven by its trade, transportation and tourism-dependent economy.

Dubai is racing to develop additional infrastructure needed to accommodate a surge in visitors expected when it becomes the first Middle Eastern city to host the World Expo in 2020. Authorities expect the expo will generate $23 billion between 2015 and 2021, and estimate it will cost $8.4 billion to organize.

The new mall project alone is expected to create an additional 20,000 hotel rooms.

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Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck

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