Dubai: Desperately Seeking Souks

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Known today for its modernity, Dubai is a beacon for boutique shoppers, bouji brunchers and swanky hotel frequenters everywhere. Those who visit find glittering skyscrapers, fast cars and palatial malls aplenty. However, this sprawling oasis in the desert was once made up of just a small port town and the village of Jumeirah. A bustling trading post before oil was struck in the sixties, goods have been sold in Dubai (after their long journey on the silk road ) since the early 20th century. Today the city’s markets are considered lovely way to shop in Dubai and offer a more traditional alternative to contemporary boutiques and malls. Dive in and you’ll find anything from jewels and textiles to perfumes and spices – the souks in Dubai are full of treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Deira Perfume Souk

Assail your senses with a visit to the perfume souks. The market mixes the old with the new, with some vendors having only recently set up and some who have been selling since the 80s . The souk is in walking distance of the Gold Souk and is slightly different to others in the city in that vendors sell out of individual shops. This is to preserve the perfumes from being damaged in the heat and comes with the added bonus of you being able to shop in cool surrounds yourself! For the best prices head down to the smaller vendors on the side streets, and be sure to sample the traditional oud, as well as more modern scents.

Deira Gold Souk

One of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, gold never goes out of style in Dubai, or indeed anywhere else. Generally sold by the weight and karat , be sure to check the market price before you begin to haggle, and remember – the higher the karat , the purer the gold. Shopping around before you land on a piece is always advisable as you’ll often find similar designs across different vendors. Again, as with the Perfume Souk, the shops a little off the beaten track will tend to offer better prices, because of their poorer positioning in the souk. Last but not least, try not to get too carried away haggling – after all, you are buying a highly precious metal that a lot of time and energy has gone into to be made pretty and shiny for you.

Textile Souk

Found across the Dubai Creek, this souk sits a short distance from the others. Hop onto a traditional abra boat and glide towards haberdashery heaven, shopping bags at the ready. Colour drips from every vendor’s stall, with anything from raw silk, embroidered cotton, ready-made outfits, rugs, upholstery, buttons, lace and much more available to buy. As well as the gorgeous wares for sale, shoppers also come to admire the architecture of the souk itself. With its home in the restored bazaar, sandy shopfronts, wooden balconies and ornate arched roofs make for a very pretty picture.

Spice Souk

Foodies unite! This is the place to be if you’d like to try to recreate some of the delicious Middle-Eastern cuisine you’ve been sampling on your trip. Made up of narrow alleyways piled high with every spice and herb in feasible imagination, this souk is a pleasure for all the senses. With stock brought in from India, Iran and Pakistan, you can’t help but find a spice to suit. You’ll rarely find saffron at a better price so be sure to indulge; aromatic cloves, exotic tea blends and rich cinnamon should also be high on the list of must-buys. Again , the souk can be found just next door to its gold and perfumed neighbours, so access is easy as pie.