If you want to add a slice of cultural indulgence to your shopping list, head to the souks where you’ll find bargains amid the bustle. The souks are the traditional trading areas and, in keeping with tradition, bargaining is expected and cash gives the best leverage.
- Gold Souk: This is Dubai’s best-known souk and a must-do for every visitor. In addition to being an experience to remember, the souk is a good place to buy customised jewellery for unique souvenirs and gifts at a reasonable price. Situated on the Deira side of the creek, the meandering lanes are lined with shops selling gold, silver, pearls and precious stones.
- Spice Souk: With its narrow streets and exotic aromas, a wander through the Spice Souk, next to the Gold Souk, is a great way to get a feel for the way the city used to be. Most of the stalls sell the same ranges and the vendors are usually happy to advise on the types of spices and their uses. This is a good spot to pick up an exotic souvenir or two – you may even be able to pick up some saffron at a bargain price.
- Textile Souk: The Textile Souk in Al Souk Al Kabeer is stocked with every fabric and colour imaginable. Textiles are imported from all over the world, with many of the more elaborate coming from the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. There are silks and satins in an amazing array of colours and patterns, velvets and intricately embroidered fabrics. Be sure to haggle!
- Electronics Souk: At the heart of Bur Dubai’s traditional shopping area, and bordering the Textile Souk, Al Fahidi Street is home to Dubai’s Electronics Souk. A great place to wander round in the cooler evenings, it’s perfect for a bit of local colour and some great shopping. This area is always busy but it really comes to life at night – if you’re unsure whether you’re in the right place, just head for the neon lights.
- Khan Murjan: For something a little different, head to Wafi’s underground souk. Khan Murjan’s magnificent stained glass ceiling and long curved arches help make this an atmospheric place to shop. The souk features over 150 stalls selling jewellery, antiques, Arabic perfumes and souvenirs; there are workshops where artisans can create various bits of arts and crafts on site. In the centre of the souk, you’ll find an open air marble courtyard and Khan Murjan Restaurant, which serves tasty pan-Arabic culinary treats.
- Souk Al Bahar: While this isn’t a souk in the conventional sense, Souk Al Bahar, in Downtown Dubai, is a modern take on the concept:. The Arabian-style mall features dimly lit corridors, carved wood and a small range of shops, many selling a range of souvenirs. The atmosphere is calmer than the retail extravaganza of the adjacent Dubai Mall and makes for a fun experience. The mall's bar and dining scene is vibrant and several restaurants have superb views of the Dubai Fountain such as Thai restaurant Mango Tree.
- Souk Madinat Jumeirah: Another modern re-creation of a traditional souk, complete with narrow alleyways, authentic architecture and motorised abras, this destination is a must. The blend of outlets include boutique shops and galleries, as well as atmospheric waterfront cafes, restaurants and bars.
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