Discover old Dubai in the city’s top souks
Lavish gold jewellery, hand-woven fabrics, traditional oud fragrances and cheap knickknacks- you'll find it all in the exciting souks of Dubai. While Dubai's reputation is as a thriving modern city, traditional Arabian markets are still a crucial part of daily life and trade. A wander through one of the city's bustling souks is an essential experience for both visitors and locals.
Fittingly for Dubai, “the city of gold”, the Gold Souk is a must-see for serious precious metal traders, couples looking for a statement jewellery piece, or visitors hunting for that special memento of their Dubai stay. The wide passageways are alive with tradesmen and artists trained in the craft of designing jewellery, from bespoke pieces and alluring Arabic designs with prices that aren’t set in stone.
A close neighbour to the Gold Souk, follow your nose to the Spice Souk to be instantly transported to the hustle and bustle of a vibrant trading floor. With top chefs, home cooks and savvy expats all swearing by their personal picks among the Spice Souk's colourful sacks of spices, herbs, rice and fruit, the market hall is a must-visit for those wanting to explore Dubai's exotic side. Score high-quality saffron strands at local prices, taste fresh A-grade and sundried organic dates and stock up on exotic spices, dried fruits, candied nuts, and locally-blended teas. You are sure to discover a new flavour – and yes, you can sample before you buy.
Obsessed by scent? Follow the road up from the Gold and Spice Souks, and you'll find yourself in Deira’s Perfume Souk on Sikkat Al Khali Street. Dealing in everything scented, from pure perfume to essential oils, incense sticks and the exotic traditional oud, the traditional trading spot has beautifully-fragranced options for all. Buy rich oils in bulk, stored in wholesale-sized flagons, or opt for the more portable ornate vials designed for those who like to dab perfume on pulse points. Ask for a crash-course in oud - many vendors will be proud to explain the differences in this ancient fragrant resin. Have a personal fragrance created and bottled by experienced perfumers.
On the Bur Dubai side of the Creek you’ll discover the colourful Textile Souk. A favourite haunt of the city's in-demand tailors and emerging fashion designers, the Souk's vast array of shops are crowded with rolls of fabrics, including fine silks, airy cottons, exotic palm frond weaves, and dazzling sari fabrics. Choose from your favourite materials and pop into one of the surrounding tailors to be measured for a dress, abaya (traditional womenswear), kandoura (traditional menswear) or suit made to your design. Most can turn around orders in mere days.
Nestled between the five-star Mina A'Salam and Al Qasr hotels, Souk Madinat Jumeirah is for those who want to skip the haggling but enjoy the thrill of shopping souk-style. Wander the labyrinth of narrow lanes in search of fun souvenirs, fine art and sculptures, local and international design houses, and take in a show at the atmospheric Madinat Theatre. There's an array of restaurants to choose from any time of day, with visitors able to dine in Levant cafes or fine-dining restaurants - many with front-row views of the waterways that meander through the complex.. Complete your visit with a traditional abra ride and drink in the views of the icon Burj Al Arab.
The Dubai Mall Souk
Around the corner from The Dubai Mall's rows of European jewellery stores, the world's largest mall's own take on an Arabian-style souk hosts more than 40 boutiques boasting fine jewellery, precious metals, and jaw-dropping gemstones. Modernised and on par with international standards, this is a vivacious shopping experience with the local craftsmen passionate about their art and Emirati heritage reflected in their intricate designs.
Souk Al Bahar
Just a short and scenic stroll over the footbridge that arches across Burj Lake at the foot of the towering Burj Khalifa and beside The Dubai Mall, Souk Al Bahar is a modern take on a traditional Arabian marketplace. Here, you can stock up on Bateel dates, incense cones, jewellery, abayas, brass lamps, and fresh Arabic pastries studded with nuts and drizzled with honey. Upstairs, with its wide-slung windows, is one of the best vantage points from which to enjoy a meal while watching the evening light shows at The Dubai Fountain.
Make your way to Dubai's world-class shopping malls or discover some secret finds at the many street markets.