By  on October 25, 2011

Casablanca’s colorful souks and street markets have survived for hundreds of years. Now that the city is moving headlong into the modern era with a 2,691,000-square-foot shopping center, their fate remains to be seen.

Morocco Mall, which is opening on Dec. 5, is a joint project of AKSAL and Al Jedaie Groups. The shell-shaped shopping center will be one of the 20 largest in the world and represents a $242 million investment.

About 98 percent of the retail space in the Morocco Mall has already been leased, according to a spokeswoman, who said the global average is about 80 percent.

The site of the Morocco Mall borders the Atlantic Ocean on the Casablanca Corniche coast. The mall stretches over 24,700 acres and includes 323,000 square feet of outdoor space and more than 150,000 square feet of landscaped gardens. With 350 shops representing everything from luxury brands to convenience stores, Morocco Mall will offer 600 brands, many of which will be opening a store in Africa for the first time, according a spokeswoman.

The first franchised Galeries Lafayette, a 140,000-square-foot unit on three levels, is said to closely mimic the Boulevard Haussmann flagship in Paris. FNAC, one of the largest sellers of DVDs, CDs, video games and high-tech products, will open a 32,000-square-foot unit and Marjane will unveil the first hypermarket in Morocco, a 70,000-square-foot store. The mall’s brochure said that it’s earned the trust of Inditex Group and luxury groups such as PPR and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, however, it does not say whether those companies have leased space.

In the center of the mall is the Morocco Souk, a seating or lounge area, inspired by the medinas — old, native quarters of North African cities — of Fez and Marrakech.

Like any megamall, Morocco Mall has a bevy of amusements for adults and children: a kids’ playground, IMAX theater, skating rink, fun park with a tropical garden, adventure park, bowling and fitness center, spa, the third-largest musical fountain in the world and a giant aquarium reachable by a panoramic lift. The mall will have 40 restaurants representing a range dining options, from fine dining with views of the sea to coffee shops to a food court. There will also be kiosks throughout the mall.

Since 2007, when construction began, more than 100,000 people have worked on the project. The mall, which will provide 5,000 permanent jobs once it opens, contributed a much-needed boost to the Moroccan economy.

The Morocco Mall, which expects 14 million visitors per year, claims tenants will do twice the amount of sales of a traditional mall.

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