Dubai is paradise for all those who love to shop. Irrespective of whether you are a die-hard shopaholic or a mere collector of souvenirs, shopping in Dubai will give you the experience of your lifetime. And why not? After all, it is home to the world’s largest shopping mall―the Dubai Mall―a huge place with seemingly countless options. With an endless number of outlets and shops, you have, perhaps, too much choice.
The independent city-state of Dubai is one of the seven emirates forming the nation of the United Arab Emirates. It is perhaps the most developed and progressive of all the emirates, and is also one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the Middle East. Dubai boasts of numerous interesting and often overwhelming things―get out of the airport to see a bustling, ultra-modern city with futuristic skyscrapers; picturesque beaches; beautiful artificial, man-made islands; imposing shopping malls; traditional souks; classy restaurants; and all these surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of desert. The city never fails to attract you towards her numerous attractions, so much so that, you are left completely dumbfounded in the end. What remains in your heart is only admiration, as all your words seem to subside.
For the past few decades, Dubai has been attracting tourists of all kinds and from all over the world. It is pretty obvious that all of them have different interests, and their aims of visiting the emirate also vary. However, there is one thing that brings all of them together, despite their varying interests and preferences―none of them miss out on a shopping expedition, while in Dubai. Yes, Dubai’s shopping scene is seductive, and it is also extremely entertaining.
What to Buy in Dubai
All that glitters is gold in Dubai. Dubai is famous for its gold, all over the world and the variety of gold jewelry that you get here is simply unbelievable. That’s why, when it comes to shopping in Dubai, gold jewelry is a must-buy item. The largest gold market in the region, and also one of the largest in the world is the Dubai Gold Souk, located in the heart of Deira, the city’s commercial business district.
There is literally tons and tons of gold on sale here, and more quantity means competitive prices. Yes, gold in Dubai is cheaper than most parts of the world, and hence, it’s the best value here. But that’s not all; bargaining is a common practice in Dubai’s gold market, and sometimes, you may also end up paying up to 50% less than the quoted price.
Tip: Inquire about the customs regulations of your home country, and how much gold you can carry back home.
Just to the east of the Gold Souk, lies the so-called Perfume Souk, which is essentially an assortment of perfume shops, each offering a great variety of Arabic Ittars as well as western perfume brands. Thousands of sweet and spicy fragrances will invite you to this souk, and while you can buy most of these even in the shopping malls, the reason you should head to this open-air market is because you have great opportunities to bargain here.
So, if you are well-versed in the art of negotiating, you can purchase a few bottles real cheap. You can also haggle a little for some really interesting flavors of Frankincense, which is available at literally every store of the souk.
Tip: Make sure that you don’t carry these items in your hand luggage during your return journey.
Another item which you cannot carry in your hand-baggage is spices―for the simple reason that they have some really strong aroma! Well, Dubai’s markets, and specially the Spice Souk, boast of selling numerous varieties of exotic spices that come to the city from all over the world. Situated just adjacent to the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk can be easily identified, even without entering it.
The absolutely tantalizing spice aromas which fill the air in and around this open-air market are unmissable. Piles and piles of familiar and unfamiliar spices crowd the narrow alleys of the Spice souk, and what’s even more interesting is that you can buy them at pretty affordable prices, given the fact that you can bargain considerably in this open-air market, something that you cannot do in bigger stores and shopping malls.
Tip: While shopping for spices in Dubai is a good idea, it needs to be noted that carrying these spices on your flight can be a hassle. So, buy them only in limited quantities, and see to it that you buy only those spices which may not be freely available in your home country. Also, ensure that all the spices you have bought have been packed in an appropriate manner. Moreover, it is a good idea to check with your airline beforehand about the type and quantity of spices permitted on board.
Dubai (as also the other Emirates) is known for its exceptionally quality of dried fruits, and while these may not be one of those inexpensive souvenirs to get back from the city, they definitely command a place on the list. The city has numerous big and small dried fruit vendors, selling all kinds of high quality dried fruits that may exist in the world.
Saudi Arabian dates are undeniably, the clear winner when it comes to buying dried fruits in Dubai. These dates, with their gooey, succulent centers, and flavorful stuffing are the most popular in Dubai, and also make for brilliant souvenirs for your near and dear ones back home.
Tip: If you are not looking for out-and-out souvenirs with pretty packaging, do not opt for dried fruits from malls. You can get similar quality dried fruits in souks and smaller shops at cheaper rates.
In Dubai, all the city’s residents are required to have an alcohol license to consume alcohol in the city. Moreover, alcohol consumption is permitted only in certain designated areas such as bars attached to hotels or in their private spaces. Visitors, however, can purchase and consume alcohol within Dubai’s designated areas without a valid license. It is worth mentioning that liquors of different kinds are available in the large, duty free outlet at Dubai airport.
Owing to the fact that it is duty-free, the prices are much less than the rest of the world, and hence, it is one of the must-buy items in Dubai. You will not find such competitive prices for liquor anywhere else in the world.
Tip: While purchasing liquor in Dubai, confirm the quantity you are allowed to purchase. Rules regarding this are really strict in the city, and so, it is always better to be well informed. Also, inquire with your airline about the quantity of liquor you are allowed to carry on your return journey.
Tourists to Dubai are also known to take back various gadgets and electronic devices, again owing to the fact that, these are cheaper here than in most parts of the world. There are hundreds of electronic gadget stores all across Dubai, and interestingly, you can catch hold of absolutely any device or gadget that exists in the world market.
From electronic goods which are not very easily found elsewhere to the just released, Dubai’s market will have all of them. Plus, several electronic stores in the city offer real heavy discounts and excellent combos; so you not only save money, but also get more for less.
Tip: Check whether the electronic goods you are buying have a worldwide warranty, and also that the model you are buying operates in your country.
Today, Dubai’s shopping malls are filled with numerous high-end boutiques and outlets of some of the world’s most popular brands of clothing and footwear. Be it any occasion, you will surely get the appropriate designer stuff here, and what’s even more encouraging is that Dubai’s malls announce a number of shopping festivals, wherein great discounts are offered on designer clothing and footwear.
Before the 70s, Dubai was known, shopping-wise, only for its gold, spices, and other oriental items. However, since then Dubai seemed to undergo a drastic transformation all of a sudden. It not only became an awe-inspiring metropolitan, but its shopping scene also became all the more happening. And this trend was most prominent in the field of fashion.
Tip: To avail some great discounts, visit Dubai during one of its annual shopping festivals viz., the Dubai Shopping Festival that is held in the first quarter of the year, and the Dubai Summer Surprises that is scheduled sometime in the third quarter of the year.
Apart from the various souks, Meena Bazaar, a popular shopping location in Bur Dubai, boasts of several enterprising salesmen stepping forth to sell you, besides other items, some of the most authentic looking fake handbags at real throwaway prices that are so like their original counterparts, it is often nearly impossible to differentiate between the two.
It comes as no surprise that tourists often fall for the counterfeits, which tend to equal the originals in every possible manner, except the unaffordable prices of the latter.
Like designer clothing, you can also pick up some of the best brands of designer handbags in Dubai’s high-end malls, and before you indulge in shopping for these originals at non-bargainable prices, let us tell you that handbag shopping is more interesting and entertaining on Dubai’s streets.
Note: Purchasing counterfeit items is both morally and legally wrong, and we are not, in any way, encouraging the sale and/or purchase of such items.
While Dubai has several carpet shops in its various shopping precincts and malls, the Deira Tower shopping mall near Baniyas Road in Deira is the best place to go on a carpet shopping spree as it houses a large number of carpet shops under a single roof. Intricately woven carpets, especially from Iran, make for the best buys, and these items don’t have to travel long distances to reach Dubai, there are no extra taxes on them as well, which automatically lowers their prices.
Tip: During the Dubai Shopping Festival, a special Carpet Souk is set up near the Dubai creek. Make it a point to visit it if you happen to be in the city at that time. Plus, if you know how to bargain, you may well end up paying up to 50% less than the quoted price.
Smoking the traditional shisha is a popular pastime in the Middle Eastern World, and it has also become popular in some other countries as well. Shisha is a popular souvenir item, and makes for a beautiful showpiece with its intricate designs and glass work.
Dubai also boasts of several outlets for Arabian crockery and silverware, having beautiful gold and silver decorations and authentic Arabic motifs.
Painted ceramics are also popular souvenir items from Dubai, and they range from salt and pepper shakers to beautifully painted flower vases.
Arabian dagger, a traditional curved dagger once held commonly by the Emirate men, makes for a striking wall hanging.
A must-buy souvenir from Dubai is the Camel-milk chocolate, which can be purchased from numerous stores across the city.
There is absolutely no doubt that Dubai is a superbly exciting place to be when it comes to shopping. But while you indulge in the activity, beware of the several tourist traps, especially on the streets. Nevertheless, though it is a safer option to shop in the malls, and souks have never been promoted as out-and-out tourist places, you have to pay at least one visit to these mighty open-air marketplaces, in order to get a taste of the traditional flavors of the city.