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Shopping in Dubai
 
 
 

General

Dubai is practically synonymous with shopping. The huge amounts of cargo passing through its port and the low tariffs ensure that practically anything is available at fairly competitive rates, although the appreciation of the dirham, and the plentiful supply of shoppers means that Dubai is no longer a bargain basement shopping city. You'll also find products in western chain stores, still with the original tags quoting euro or sterling prices, being sold with a 20-30% mark-up once converted to dirhams.

The best things to buy in Dubai is textiles, electronics and gold, electronics is believed to be much cheaper while textiles and gold offer a wide range of selection.

Even in the mega-malls, Dubai shops suffer from the standard developing world shopping phenomenon of having no storeroom and no stocks in reserve – and for clothes shopping this may mean that you may struggle to find the style you want in the size you want. Shops open as early as 9am and stay open to 10pm and on weekends to 12am and some stay to 1am.

Remember to haggle in the souks, as discounts are almost always available and even in situations where the item will not become much cheaper, the customer is always expected to haggle.

Prices in the malls and other Western shops tend not to be negotiable. Far from being a bad thing, this allows the canny visitor to work out comparative prices for common souvenirs – an invaluable aid when a shop-keeper in a souk is asking for a higher price.

'Dubai Shopping Festival' has been the biggest shopping event in the middle east for 11 years. Almost every shop has a sale, starting 24 January and ending 24 February. There's also a very similar 'Dubai Summer Surprises' trying to pull in shoppers during the summer low season.

Places to Shop

Gold Souk

Located at the mouth of the creek, the Gold Souk dazzles people by selling gold in large quantities and with little visible security. The souk is a historic market that has been a part of Dubai since the origin of Dubai itself; a must visit for shoppers and sightseers. Most of the gold is 22ct quality and quite expensive – although even here the shopkeepers are prepared to bargain – and the craftsmanship can be remarkably detailed. The gold items are sold by weight with a "making charge" added on top to cover the workmanship. It pays therefore, to go shopping armed with the current gold price and a knowledge of the making charges in order to hone the bargaining process. Many outlets are part of chains that also have branches in malls, so are generally reliable.

Spice Souk

Another historic market is the Spice Souk. Located at the mouth of the creek, it is not far from the Gold Souk, but has sadly declined a bit in recent years as supermarkets take over the spice trade. If you're actually shopping for spices, odds are you'll get better prices and quality with much less hassle at Carrefour. Both the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk are a rather hot and sweaty experience with limited air-conditioning, so wear appropriately cool, loose clothing if visiting in mid summer. Individual shops are air conditioned. Although regularly visited by tourists, none of the souks are considered a tourist area and as such modest dress should be worn to avoid causing offence or attracting unwanted attention.


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