Shopping in the Middle East
Once a haven for pearl divers, fishermen and traders of spices, gold and slaves, Dubai today offers one of the world’s finest shopping experiences. From ultra-modern shopping malls to centuries-old open-air souks (markets), you’ll find bargains galore. Browse the more than 40 themed shopping malls for the latest fashion labels, jewellery and cosmetics as well as electronics, home accessories and furniture. Or explore the souks for traditional leather goods, carpets, perfume, gold, brass, jewellery and silverware. Shopping in Dubai is also a family experience, with most shopping malls offering cinemas, a choice of restaurants and theme-based attractions. Best of all, the city of Dubai is a tax-free haven!
Typically, shops are open from Sunday to Wednesday between 10am and 10pm, although many malls are now open all day on Fridays.
None. The city of Dubai is totally, and marvellously, duty free!
Every day is a sale in Dubai, but you'll find even more bargains during the Dubai Shopping Festival (January/February) or Summer Surprises (June, July and August).
In addition to high-end fashions, Dubai is simply a fantastic place to buy Persian, Afghani and Pakistani carpets, Arabic coffee pots, swords and khanjars (Arabic curved daggers), prayer beads, marble goblets, silver Bedouin jewellery, cotton dhurries (oblong floor coverings) and inlaid rosewood and walnut furniture.
Best time to visit
Winter and the cooler months, between November and April, are the best times to visit Dubai. Expect sunny skies with an average temperature of 24°C and a high of 28°C. Summers are very hot in Dubai, often reaching 48°C in July, so it can get uncomfortable.
Best shopping areas
Here's a round-up of some of the best of Dubai's shopping malls and souks. Although the majority of malls in Dubai do have fixed prices, bargaining is still an accepted practice in all stores other than electronics stores, high-end boutiques, supermarkets and large department stores.
Mall of the Emirates (Al Barsha) For the finest haute couture clothing, jewellery, electronics and sporting equipment, explore Dubai's huge glass and steel Mall of the Emirates, located in the middle of Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road. At more than 600,000m2 it's claimed to be the largest shopping mall outside North America. The winner of the 2007 Retail Destination of the Year Award, Mall of the Emirates is bursting with more than 350 shops and designer boutiques including Harvey Nichols, Debenhams, Bois & Chiffon, Reiss, Missoni, Bulgari, Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Armani.
In addition to countless shops, the air-conditioned Mall of the Emirates boasts Ski Dubai, (the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East), a theatre and arts centre, a 14-screen cinema complex, an amusement park and several world-class restaurants and bars, including the brasserie-style cuisine of St Maxim's, seafood at Salmontini, fondue at Après, Lebanese cuisine at Karam and international fare at Sezzam. Attached to the mall is the luxurious five-star Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, a 400-room hotel offering a range of superb accommodation and facilities.
Deira City Centre (Deira) With its central location, Deira City Centre is one of the most popular malls in Dubai. Home to more than 340 boutiques, restaurants, fast food outlets, a cinema, a children's entertainment centre (Magic Planet) and the Sofitel City Centre Hotel. Deira City Centre's retailers include Burberry, Debenhams, Liz Clairborne, Quicksilver and Tiffany & Co.
Ibn Battuta Mall (Jelebel Ali) Themed around the journeys of the 14th century Moroccan explorer, Ibn Battuta, through China, India, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia and Andalusia. The mall's six courts include Bulgari, Lacoste, Mothercare, Pierre Cardin and River Garden. The mall also boasts a 21-screen cinema, the largest cinema complex in the Middle East and featuring an IMAX screen.
Wafi City Mall (Umm Hurair) This upmarket Egyptian-themed mall sprawls over four floors and is home to numerous international names including Body Shop, Chopard, Mont Blanc and Tiffany & Co. On the third floor, a family entertainment centre offers a range of fun activities for children and adults.
The Dubai Mall (Bur Dubai) With more than 1000 retail stores, an ice rink, multiplex cinema, the world's largest aquarium and the world's biggest gold souk, the recently opened Dubai Mall is now claiming to be the world's largest shopping mall.
Burjuman Centre (Al Qusais) With its new extension, the Burjuman Centre now boasts more than 300 leading stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Cartier, Espirit, Hermes, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co. and Virgin Megastore, as well as the five-star Rotana Suites hotel.
Al Ain Centre (Bur Dubai) Also known as Computer Plaza, this small shopping mall is one of the best places in Dubai to find bargains on computers, laptops, printers, electronic goods and computer accessories, featuring more than 60 retail stores. The centre also boasts cafes and restaurants (some with internet access).
Souk Madinat Jumeirah (Jumeirah) This re-creation of a traditional souk has the comfort of air-conditioning and is home to around 100 boutique shops, restaurants and bars.
Dubai International Airport Experience a 24/7 paradise of duty free goods - probably the best duty free outlet in the world.
Explore Dubai's amazing souks (markets)
Beneath the shimmering office towers of Deira, on the right bank of Dubai Creek lie atmospheric alleyways and ancient souks where you can browse for spices, antiques, handicrafts and jewels. Haggling is traditional in the souks and can result in massive price reductions. Tip: Make a first offer of 50 per cent less than the quoted price; once the shopkeeper has accepted your offer, you are expected to pay.
Gold Souk Enter the wooden lattice archway of Deira's celebrated Gold Souk to explore an Aladdin's cave of dazzling gold shops. Choose from an amazing array of gold ingots, chains, rings, earrings and bracelets of intricately crafted jewellery, many of an ornate Indian and Arabian design.
Spice Souk Breathe in the pungent aromas of frankincense and myrrh, herbs and spices.
Perfume Souk Watch local women buy spicy Arabic perfumes, oud (fragrant wood) and incense burners.
Bur Dubai Souk Stroll beneath the wooden arcades and wind towers of Bur Dubai Souk for textiles, clothes and Arabian antiques. Buy a sari, have a suit made or bargain for electronics.
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