While Dubai’s futuristic malls and stylish arcades offer world class, 21st century stores, its characterful souks whisk you to the heart of the Emirate’s traditional shopping culture. A feast for the senses, alive with the aroma of spice and perfume and the vivid colour of hand-woven silks, Dubai’s souks take you on a sensory journey, immersing you in Arabian life. From the glittering jewels of the Gold Souk to authentically Middle Eastern products at Souk Madinat, we point you to what to buy at Dubai’s extraordinary bazaars.
Jewellery at Gold Souk
An Aladdin’s Cave of treasures in Deira – Dubai’s old district – Dubai’s Gold Souk is the largest gold market in the world. Shimmering precious metals are everywhere you turn as stalls and stores seemingly glow with their radiant gold wares. Picking up some classically Arabian jewellery is an absolute must, and many of the Gold Souk’s creations are show-stoppers that make a statement. Look out for ornate chunky bangles, chandelier earrings, cascading necklaces and eye-catching rings. Shop smart by window-shopping around different vendors first, always ask for the carat and don’t be afraid to haggle.
Middle Eastern spices at Spice Souk
As you step into the Spice Souk, located just south of Gold Souk, the vibrant aroma and colours of herbs, spices and fruit envelops you. Wander around the warren of corridors and you’ll find rainbow-hued baskets overflowing with pink rosebuds, brown cinnamon sticks and all manner of exotic spices from across the world. But it’s the more uncommon ones, indigenous to the Middle East that you can’t leave Spice Souk without. Search out za’atar, a heady blend of thyme, oregano, marjoram, high quality strands of saffron from Afghanistan and citrusy tasting sumac.
Stunning souvenirs at Souk Madinat
With its ornately carved wooden columns and antique lamps you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in old world Arabia, but Souk Madinat is an entirely 21st century bazaar. Evoking the atmospheric ambience of a traditional market, Souk Madinat is part of Madinat Jumeirah and a marvellous place to shop authentically Middle Eastern souvenirs and gifts. Peruse its boutiques and you’ll unearth everything from colourful beaded jewellery to decorative hookah pipes and curvaceous dallah coffee pots. Souk Madinat also has a handful of art galleries and shops where you can discover and buy beautiful works to take home.
Arabian fragrances at Perfume Souk
A treat for your olfactory senses, Dubai’s Perfume Souk is a heady haven of rare and unusual fragrances. Hundreds of stalls are replete with endless rows of pretty apothecary-style bottles housing aromatic attars – perfume oils derived from botanical sources. From floral jasmine and rose, to sandalwood; these natural perfumes are beautifully fragrant. Keep a look out for the sensual oud (made from agarwood), which is the Middle East’s signature scent, or Bakhoor incense scent-infused chips of wood burned to give off a wonderful smell. To create something truly bespoke, many vendors allow you to blend your own fragrance. What’s more, they are a fountain of knowledge so be sure to let vendors school you in the origins and intricacies of local ingredients and scents.
Lustrous fabrics at Textile Souk
A short Abra ride over Dubai Creek from Deira’s other souks, the Textile Souk is awash with colourful raw silks, cottons and embroidered fabrics. Amid the covered alleyways of the market you can find exquisite Kashmiri scarves in the softest of cashmeres, gold-enhanced sari silks and babouche slippers in a kaleidoscope of hues. Stalls are piled high with kaftans and abayas. Don’t miss the chance to buy some sumptuous home textiles like hand-woven rugs or distinctly Middle Eastern cushions.
Visit the souks from one of the beautiful Dubai hotels at Madinat Jumeirah, along the 2km private, pristine shoreline across the Arabian Gulf. Discover Jumeirah Al Naseem, Jumeirah Al Qasr, Jumeirah Mina A'Salam and Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf.