In Dubai, a shopping trip is no mere frivolous jaunt: It’s a cultural event, an adventure — and, yes, a chance to buy some really great stuff. The best Dubai souqs are in the Deira area of the city, so assemble your friends and take a short abra ride across Dubai Creek, where bustling alleyways overflow with gold, spices, and delicious food. As you step onto shore, you’re following the footsteps of traders from the Far East and India. For centuries they landed here, their dhows laden with silks, perfumes, and other valuables to unload at market. Now, you’ll carry on the tradition.
This marketplace fairly glows, as every window glints with troves of golden necklaces, rings, even golden cloth. Jostle through the narrow, glittering streets of the famous Gold Souq (sometimes spelled “souk”), and run your fingers over delicate strands of gold, often in colors and shades you have never seen before. Check out your reflection as you hold up a necklace front of a mirror — you don’t look exactly like ancient Emirati royalty, but it’s close enough. Best of all, the gold here is high-quality but inexpensive, as long as you’re willing to haggle.
Amid the hustle of the crammed alleyways, this souq is a bonanza of seafood — some species of which you’ve never seen before. If you’re an adventurous eater and are always up for new delicacies, haggle with your fishmonger until you land on a mutually attractive price. The vendor then guts and cleans your favorite crustaceans, hamour, ray, or truly enormous jumbo shrimp; afterward, you can take them straight over to nearby stands where they can be cooked for a small fee.
You can smell the intoxicating aroma of the Spice Souq long before you arrive. Mingling with the sweet smells of perfumes wafting from the nearby perfume souq, this part of the creek is an aromatic paradise. Breath deep as you take in the woody aroma of frankincense, an ancient resin from trees native to Southern Arabia, combined with the scents of cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. Try to resist buying one of everything as you make your way through this vibrant sea of lavender and rosebuds. With such a blissful combination of scent and color, this may prove to be your favorite of the Dubai souqs.