This is a city bursting with designer goodies and even a few bargains.
The United Arab Emirates may be a land built on sand, but there’s certainly no drought when it comes to shopping. Boasting everything from ultra-modern mega-malls to traditional Arabic souks, this is a city bursting with designer goodies, Middle Eastern handicrafts and even a few bargains — if you know where to look.
As the world’s largest retail, leisure and entertainment destination, The Dubai Mall should be the first stop on any shopaholic’s list. With more than 1,200 stores, it’s home to all of the world’s biggest brands, from clothing and accessories to housewares and electronics.
There’s also plenty of family fun to be had at the Dubai Aquarium, the SEGA Republic indoor theme park, edutainment zone KidZania and the ice rink. Energy can be replenished at the food court, which is vast and caters to all tastes.
A firm favorite on the Dubai shopping scene, this mall cemented its status recently with a major renovation. Housing over 700 shops, including department stores Harvey Nichols and Debenhams — and in the future, if the rumors are to be believed, the world’s largest Apple store — as well as nearly 100 food outlets.
The other big draw is SkiDubai, the world-renowned indoor ski slope. This bizarre snowy wonderland features an 85-meter-high mountain with 5 runs, a Snow Park for kids (even big kids) and the Snow Bullet zipline. There’s even a resident troupe of penguins who live in their own icy enclosure, emerging for special Penguin Encounters with the public.
Located in a replica Egyptian pyramid complex, WAFI features a plethora of upscale fashion and lifestyle stores. It’s also home to Khan Murjan, a covered souk (Arabian market) selling wares exclusively from the Arab world — fantastic for souvenirs and gifts.
September will see the return of the mall’s popular Taste of WAFI festival, where stalls spring up selling gourmet goodies. And if food’s your thing, check out the Pyramids area adjacent to the mall, where restaurants serve everything from seafood to tapas. If you’re visiting in the cooler months, head to WAFI Rooftop on Sunday evenings, when there are free open-air movie screenings.
Dubai can come across as an ultra-modern city that’s shrugged off its Arabic heritage, but if it’s the traditional world of silks, spices and Arabian Nights you’re after, head to the old souks. Nestled along the banks of Dubai Creek, these traditional markets still retain much of their original charm.
The gold and spice souks lie together on the Deira side of the creek. Upon arrival, you’ll be hit by a fragrant cloud of scent, as cinnamon, ginger, cloves and other spices jostle with clouds of frankincense. Next comes the noise, as enthusiastic shop owners extoll the virtues of their goods.Wind your way through the alleys and you’ll reach the Gold Souk, centered around a pedestrian street lined by shops, all showcasing shiny golden wares in their windows, with unset stones and weighing scales inside ready for bespoke orders. Haggling is de rigueur here, so remember the first price given is simply a starting point for negotiations.The Textiles Souk is on the other side of the creek — a 2-minute journey on an abra, a small wooden boat that ferries passengers from bank to bank. Take your time strolling through the white-washed buildings and small stalls, where you’ll find tailors running up local outfits — kandoras for men and abayas for ladies — as well as reams of fabric and stacks of scarves and pashminas.
This upmarket, palm-lined coastal road is home to a wealth of quaint little malls, with shops catering to the myriad of wealthy women who spend their days splashing cash.
At the stylish Sunset Mall, Rivaage Boutique combines ready-to-wear lines from international brands with quirky Middle Eastern designs, while West LA Boutique brings together trendy pieces from hot new international labels.For a mid-spree snack, head to The Village Mall, where you can enjoy a light bite at the fancifully feminine Shakespeare & Co Café, or grab a sugar-fix to go from the supremely good cupcake store, Hey Sugar.
The first outlet concept in the region, Dubai Outlet Mall promises big names at a fraction of the cost. It hosts more than 1,200 international brands, with discounts of 30 to 90% across its 240 stores, which stock everything from clothing and lampshades to shoes and luggage — very useful if you need a new suitcase to carry home all your purchases.
The shopping isn’t even the central attraction at this world fair of sorts, but for many residents, Global Village is the go-to place for good-value furnishings.
It may be missing some of the bells and whistles of Dubai’s modern attractions, but Global Village is full of family fun, with rides and stalls in the central funfair and performances by international entertainers.The “Global” element refers to its 38 pavilions, each representing a different country. Venture into one and you’ll find fashion, food, crafts and cultural displays that typify that nation. Particularly good for shoppers seeking quality are the Persian carpets in the Iran pavilion, gold jewelry in India and cotton items in Egypt.