Dubai is a destination for shopping par excellence, where shopping as a leisure activity is taken to new levels. Dubai has become a mecca for shopaholics, and the shopping capital of the Middle East, in large part due to the lack of taxes and duty. Here a good deal really is a good deal!
Spectacular malls are what Dubai is renowned for; glossy, air-conditioned, and often festooned with fountains, chandeliers and marble floors.
The Mall of the Emirates is the largest mall outside the U.S. and must be the only one in the world with a ski slope in the centre of it. Highlights include a large Harvey Nichols, with the expensive designer stores positioned around a faux Rodeo Drive-style area.
BurJuman is a favourite with the locals, where the well-heeled flock to splash the cash at high-end stores such as Chanel, Hermès, Christian Dior, and to browse in the only Saks Fifth Avenue in Dubai.
Ibn Battuta Mall is named after a 14-century seafarer, and is divided into themed areas of the world that he visited – though this mall has been a little usurped by larger and glossier more recent developments.
For the discerning shopper, The Boulevard at Jumeirah Emirates Towers is upmarket and compact with over fifty outlets, including Boutique 1, the famous Middle Eastern department store.
On the Deira side of the creek, is the City Centre Mall; whilst near the Dubai Zoo is the Italian-themed Mercato Mall.
In January, the annual Dubai Shopping Festival brings more bargains for the spend-crazy, with further discounts on goods, and special deals on hotels and air fares. Dedicated shoppers flock from the world-over, lured by the festival to celebrate Dubai’s heritage, see the breathtaking fireworks and shop.
Away from the modern malls, a glimpse of the real Dubai can be found in the traditional Arabic marketplaces known as souks. Possibly Dubai’s most famous souk is the Gold Souk in Deira. Though offering more than gold, many visit just to browse the spectacular selection for which it is most famous.
Gold is priced by weight, purity and method of production – whether by machine or hand. With Dubai’s strict laws, the purity and authenticity of gold sold can be relied upon, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t haggle – as with the rest of the Middle East, it’s customary.
Timid westerners should try to not look too interested, and ask the seller for their ‘best price’. If you can ascertain how much the weight of gold should cost, then add around thirty percent for workmanship, this is a good idea of a fair price. Further discounts will usually be available for cash.
Expect the same degree of theatre if you are buying a rug, with the seller unrolling plenty that you may not want – it’s all part of the show, and shouldn’t stop you bargaining over the cost. Sharjah’s Central Market is a good place for rugs. Try not to be intimidated with all the bartering that comes with shopping in Dubai’s souks – remember you are never under any obligation to buy anything at all.
Also see the food souks for fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Deira Old Souk sells a wonderful array of spices.