If there is one activity that you can never seem to stop yourself from doing in Dubai that would be shopping! Modern, spacious and luxurious shopping malls can be found in almost every corner of the city. Famous shopping malls such as the Mall of the Emirates andIbn Batutta Mall caters to the consumer’s every need featuring a wide range of items from gold, electronics and textiles to haute couture, boutique and designer brands. It’s no wonder that Dubai has earned itself the title the shopping capital of the Middle East!
The word ‘souk’ originated from the Arabic word which means market or a place where various goods are brought to and exchanged. Back in the olden days, shipments of goods from the Far East, China, Ceylon and India were brought in by the Arab merchants to be bargained over in the souks adjacent to the shipping docks. Though the environment has changed over the years, the items being sold in the souks remain the same, from perfume, gold, spices, textiles to electronics and consumer items.
A trip to Dubai will never be complete without first visiting (or literally going mad shopping!) in the souks located in the districts of Deira and Bur Dubai. Although modern shopping malls offer a more comfortable and luxurious shopping experience, traditional souks provide an opportunity to mix and mingle with the locals apart from enhancing your bargaining skills! The atmosphere surrounding the souks exudes warmth and friendliness amidst the noisy bargaining that often takes place between the customers and the shopkeepers. The cheerful sights and sounds of the bustling marketplace gives visitors a glimpse into what Dubai must have been like in the days of yesteryears.
Be prepared to be amazed by the extensive array of glinting, shiny and beautifully crafted metal when you visit the Gold Soukat Sikkat al-Khali Street. The narrow streets along the souk are literally paved with gold as shopkeepers proudly display 18, 21, 22, and 24 carat gold in various forms such as necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, bangles and pendants. Famed the world over for its low prices and wide variety, the gold prices here are often determined by its weight rather than by its design and craftsmanship.
Just next to the Gold Souk, visitors will be greeted by a myriad of fragrances and aromas from fresh Arabic spices and seasonings sold at the Spice Souk. The souk, located at al-Sabkha Road is a popular stop for most tourists visiting Dubai. A large variety of spices are sold here straight from open sacks, ranging from cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, incense, dried fruit and nuts which are imported from all over the Middle East.
Forget about paying a hefty sum of money for a small bottle of Chanel, J’adore or any other famous designer brand perfumes. At Dubai’s Perfume Souk, you can get a unique perfume concoction specially prepared for you by the smart shopkeepers to suit your taste and body for a fraction of the price! Thousands of sweet smelling fragrances and aromas beckon as you walk through the narrow lanes. Every kind of perfume imaginable is available here from the strong Arabic scents to the latest designer brands.
The best times to visit the Fish Souk at Deira would either be in the early mornings or late at night. Just watching the animated local fishermen unload their catches and selling them in the market while engaging in a bargaining session with their customers is indeed an attraction in itself. Their catches include king fishes, red snappers, rock cods, barracudas, tuna, lobsters, crabs, king prawns, sea breams, squids, pomfrets, sharks, mackerels, sardines and many other species.
Best times to shop…..
Dubai’s shops are normally open from 8.00am to 1.00pm and 4.30pm to 8.00pm. Most shops areclosed on Fridays. Large malls are open from 10.00am to 10.00pm. Shops, malls and souks are usually closed on Friday mornings and only open after Friday prayers around 2.00pm.
Shopping is considered one of Dubai’s greatest activities and is taken very seriously in this part of the world. Shopping is aggressively promoted in Dubai through festivals held annually such as the Dubai Shopping Festival held for a whole month beginning mid January to mid February. The festival attracts up to 3 million visitors per year and promises shopaholics worldwide the ultimate shopping experience with non-stop shopping bargains and storewide giveaways!
Bargaining your way through….
The trick to shopping like a pro in Dubai is to bargain for a better price whenever possible. In other parts of the world, bargaining may be frowned upon but here in the Middle East, bargaining is considered a way of life and an honoured tradition. The fun part about shopping in Dubai’s souks is the experience of bargaining for great deals with the shopkeepers for your desired item.
To master the art of bargaining, one must be able to decide on a price they are happy with paying and to walk away if you they don’t get it for the desired price. Here are a few tips you can use when bargaining in Dubai.
Tip#1: Be polite when bargaining. Never use rudeness and aggression as a bargaining tool.
Tip#2: Start with a customary greeting and know the value of the bargaining item before beginning your bargaining session. (You can do this by browsing in other shops).
Tip#3: Offer half of the quoted price for the item. (Prices for items are usually hiked up and open for bargaining).
Tip#4: Once you reached the desired price, it’s taken as a verbal contract and you are expected to purchase the item.
Tip#5: Shopkeepers here are old pros when it comes to bargaining so agree on a price before they take advantage of a moment’s weakness!