Dubai can safely be called one of the shopping capitals of the world. From high-end fashion stores to traditional souqs, from street peddlers to some of the largest and swankiest malls in the world, Dubai can wear out even the biggest shopaholic. The Dubai Shopping Festival, held for over a month in January–February, is the top attraction that unfailingly lures people to the city’s shores every year.
Dubai Shopping Festival: Every year, from mid-January to mid-February, the region’s longest-running shopping fiesta the Dubai Shopping Festival (www.mydsf.com) draws thousands of bargain hunters and shoppers from the world over. This annual event has transformed the face, not only of the retail industry of Dubai, but the city itself. Before the festival, the city is spruced up and the shops advertise the discounts, which often go up to as much as 50%. The lovely weather adds to the festivities along with car raffles, fireworks over the Creek and traditional performances at the Heritage and Diving Villages.
Dubai Summer Surprises: Held every year during the hot months between June and September, Dubai Summer Surprises is aimed more towards the local population and the neighbouring Emirates. As a windfall, a sizable chunk of foreign tourists also arrive, bringing much needed off-season business. If you want to save money on the best brands in the world, Dubai Summer Surprises is just the thing for you. The main focus during this festival is family travel, entertainment and education for kids. Modhesh (Arabic for ‘amazing’) is the mascot of this event, and is often referred to as the ‘Mickey Mouse of the Middle East’.
Antiques & Souvenirs: At the expensive end, you could shop for age-old crystals, Pakistani swords, sheeshas or pashmina shawls. For inexpensive knick-knacks you could pick up scaled replicas of Burj Khalifa and Burj Al-Arab, khanjars and old coins. Antique Museum is a huge shop in Al-Quoz with goods from around the world, not necessarily always antique. Another option is the Karama Shopping Centre packed to the ceiling with interesting wares. Dubai is also one of the best places in the world to find a good carpet. Kashmir, Iran, Turkey – the best of all the traditions can be found in Dubai. You can also hunt down antique rugs in very good condition, but be ready to pay a fat price.
Gold: Dubai’s reputation as the City of Gold is based on its gold shops, which number in thousands, most of them concentrated in the Deira Gold Souq and Dubai Gold and Diamond Park. This is the best place to pick good quality gold for great prices and designs. Dubai boasts of brands like Azza Fahmy, whose work is regarded as art, as well has chains like Damas.
Perfume & Incense: Attar or ittar (Arabic for perfume), known for its strong and long-lasting fragrance, is particularly popular in the region and makes for good gifts. Though you find them in malls, the real fun is in bargaining over tiny, often strangely shaped bottles in Perfume Souq in Deira. Don’t be fooled by its fancy name, for the souq comprises rows of little shops crammed with coloured bottles, alongside the more popular global perfume brands (some of which may be fakes).
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