A guide to Dubai’s traditional souks
Spend hours getting lost in the narrow lanes of Old Dubai
We all know Dubai is the ultimate shopping destination, with the world’s largest mall and a festival DEDICATED to the sport (yep, we’re calling it a sport) there’s really no comparison. But while the malls are fab, nothing beats a day searching for bargains down in Old Dubai.
Get lost in the narrow, twisting laneways, where residents and tourists alike haggle with vendors to snag the best prices; with everything from exotic scents, gold, raw silks and rare fabrics available, this is a truly memorable day of shopping. The souks are located on either side of Dubai Creek which you can cross by Abra (a traditional wooden boat) for the tiny cost of AED 1.
A word of warning: Haggling is part of the fun but you’re dealing with the best sales people in the world. You can expect any given price to be halved (if not more) so stand your ground when bartering...and if the vendor won’t budge, try the shop next door.
Without doubt the most popular souk, people travel from all over to purchase gold in Dubai. Famed for it’s low-prices, most traders display their daily gold price so have a quick check before settling on a vendor. With recognisable dealers such as Joyalukkas surrounded by hundreds of smaller names, you’ll be spoiled for choice and your biggest problem will be choosing what to purchase (and trying to get the right price). On a budget? It's perfect if you're looking for gold-plated jewellery too. The souk is situated in Deira, near the Al Ras Metro station.
Perfumes and scents are a big part of the culture in Dubai; the local scent is strong and spicy but you can find anything to suit your needs at Sikkat Al Khail Street on the Deira side of the Creek. Both traditional and modern scents are available and some vendors will even design a custom made scent to complement your skin type and personality. They're are also a brilliant idea for bespoke gifts.
Deira Fish Market
Catch (sorry!) the fishing trade in full swing as fresh fish are gutted and prepared for sale daily at this fish market. It's known as the cheapest spot to buy fresh fish in Dubai. Haggle, or simply stand back and watch the first step of the fish making its way from market to some of the finest restaurants in the city.
You’ll find everything from barracuda and lobster to impressive baby sharks and everything in between, but steer clear if you're not a fan of fish; as you can imagine the smell is quite overpowering.
Located in Bur Dubai, (a short Abra ride across the Creek from the spice souk) this is a vibrant, colourful market. Find every fabric and texture imaginable here; from yards of raw beautiful silks, handmade embroidery and saris to traditional Arab dress. These twisting, narrow streets are a melting pot of different influences as fabrics from all over the Middle East and further afield have found their way to this souk. And while the souk has been renovated, the old architecture still remains; meaning this is a historical experience as much as a shopping one (any excuse eh?!).
A stone’s throw from the gold souk (you can walk it but if you’re laden with bags you’ll easily find a taxi) this is one of the oldest souks in the area. Expect a bustling, vibrant atmosphere, where each individual shop is literally bursting with fragrant herbs and spices; everything from cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla pods and saffron, to shisha tobacco and pipes, and stunning traditional lamps and homewares. As with the rest of the souks; no price is fixed, so expect to haggle for a good deal to leave with high quality, reasonably priced goods.