What would you take home as a souvenir from Dubai? Something traditional from the souks, a piece of gold jewelery, or would you rather trawl the malls for designer fashions and accessories?
Whatever you decide, Dubai shops
have them all. With giant Dubai malls
serving as complete entertainment centres with miles of air-conditioned corridors and tempting window displays, you can easily spend a few hours or an entire day hopping from store to store until closing time which can be as late as midnight on the weekends.
If power walking your way through the numerous big brand malls doesn't really do it for you, then opt for a more authentic Arabian experience and head to one of the local souks or markets that can be found around town. From the narrow alleyways of the gold, perfume, spice, electronics and textile souks in Deira and Bur Dubai, to the more modern re-creations at the other end of town, you can test your bargaining skills while netting yourself a memorable memento of your trip to Arabia.
From the Dubai shops
and dining delights of The Dubai Mall to the popular Mall of Emirates
home to the worlds largest indoor ski slope on to Ibn Battuta Mall
(named after the famed Arabic explorer) with its six themed shopping halls, there's more to the retail experience in Dubai than just branded storefronts.
The Dubai Mall, at the base of Burj Khalifah, which opened in November 2008, houses over 1,200 stores including favourites such as Ted Baker, Guess Jeans, Gap, Manolo Blahnik< and Aldo. Punctuate your visit with stops at the Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre and Dubai Ice Rink, also housed in the mall.
Mall of Emirates
, meanwhile, features 350 shops, a 400-room Kempinski hotel and a 400-metre-long ski slope. This indoor ski centre even features real snow a somewhat difficult idea to grasp in the middle of a desert, but a unique way to spend an afternoon after a mornings meanderings.
The expansive Ibn Battuta Mall
, which lies on the outer reaches of the city along Sheikh Zayed Road, houses six international shopping zones, making a trip from Egypt to China entirely feasible in a matter of minutes.
If designer fashions are your thing then it has to be the upmarket BurJuman mall
, a one-stop shopping destination for every label imaginable from Dior to Louis Vuitton. The mall is also home to the ultra-fashionable Saks Fifth Avenue store, the hangout of the well-heeled and affluent visitor.
And if you just cant get enough of all that luxury, then the equally stylish Boulevard at Jumeirah Emirates Towers is home to yet more desirable brands from the must-have trinkets of Tiffany & Co. and Bvlgari to the inimitable chic of Armani and Jimmy Choo.
Another unique destination is Wafi, a great place to shop with the family or hang out with friends. Built in the shape of a pyramid, this distinctive emirates mall
is not only home to an eclectic mix of one-off stores and familiar brand names, but also offers an exciting menu of quality dining venues and entertainment options from Planet Hollywood to the acclaimed Ashas Indian restaurant (owned by famous musician, Asha Bhosle). It also houses Khan Murjan, an indoor souk based on a legendary 14th century Arabian market, with artisans and traders selling a variety of goods.
Deira City Centre
meanwhile is a cornerstone of the city's retail scene, with something for everyone. It is particularly popular for its selection of high street brands including Deben-hams, Topshop, Forever 21, Gap, Mango, Oasis and Benetton. The huge Carrefour in the centre is the perfect place to find bargain-priced TVs, DVDs, clothing and home accessories.
Venture to New Dubai and you will find one of the few outdoor shopping precincts in the city, with great beach views as well. The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence spans 1.7km and is spread across two levels a plaza level and beach level. Its a mix of high-end retail and home wares, interspersed with an array of restaurants and bustling cafes. Theres also Boutique 1 where you can find handpicked designs from top labels such as Mulberry, Missoni, Elie Saab, Luella and Giambattista Valli.
Other malls in Dubai
, not necessarily known for their choice or size, but charm and design, are The Village in Jumeirah with a selection of funky boutiques selling limited collections; the ever-busy Mercato mall, designed in a Venetian theme; and Jumeirah Mall with its cafes, bookstore and quirky gift outlets.
STEP INTO THE PAST
Souk in Arabic means a place where any kind of product can be exchanged or bought. For centuries, dhows (wooden boats) from the Far East, Sri Lanka and India would anchor in Dubai to sell their exotic wares.
Today, these souks still exist and represent a vast part of Dubai s traditional trading culture. The perfect place to spend a day trawling through the stalls and discovering the art of haggling is the Gold Souk, where you can find some of the worlds cheapest yellow metal.
Head down this street and be dazzled as you pass row upon row of gleaming shops selling diamonds and bright gold. Prices vary, depending on weight, but rest assured that whatever you buy will be at a snip, sometimes even as little as quarter of what you might pay back home. Many visitors enjoy a trip to the Spice Souk as another top destination. With its bustling narrow streets and fragrant spices precariously stacked up against one another, you'll be sure to appreciate the smells and ambience of this market. Stock up on saffron, thyme, vanilla pods, dried cinnamon and dried orange and lemon (loomi) for a spicy and fragrant treat.
The Souk Al Kabeer and the Meena Bazaar area are great places to visit if youre in search of some colourful material. With many Dubai shops offering wares from India and Pakistan, there's a huge range of jewel-encrusted silks, brightly coloured satins, paisley printed crepe and pastel chiffons to choose from ideal for mocking up that one-of-a-kind cocktail or prom dress. Prices are reasonable and whats more, youre sure to get something original you wont find at home.
Seeking electronics? Then hop down to Bur Dubai where the neon lights and fluorescent signage jump out. Haggle yourself a cheap TV, DVD or MP3 player, but just make sure the frequencies are compatible with those back home.
DUBAI FESTIVAL FUN
If you're in Dubai from January to February or making a visit between June and August, take advantage of either DSF (Dubai Shopping Festival) or DSS (Dubai Summer Surprises). Throughout these festivals you can enjoy sizeable discounts (up to 80% off in some cases) and bag some amazing bargains, from clothing to electronics. Not only that, you'll also be able to enjoy many cultural and educational activities. During DSF, nightly shows take place along with street carnivals, fireworks and fairgrounds, providing great amusement for youngsters and the young at heart.
Throughout DSS, childrens activities take place all around the city, offering educational and fun zones to entertain the little ones. Modhesh World at Dubai Airport Expo is a major attraction with non-stop entertainment for kids.
Raffles galore take place in both festivals, but these are not your usual bunch of flowers and chocolate affairs, by any stretch of the imagination. Enter one of these and you could find yourself winning the latest BMW, Bentley or Mercedes, millions of dirhams of cash, gold bars, luxury holidays and even an apartment.
Some lucky winners in the past have swiped up to three cars per household and with raffle ticket numbers often capped, the chances of winning are better than expected and the prizes quite unlike any other raffle in the world.