Dubai is called the "City of Gold" because of its dynamic growth from a sleepy Gulf village to a global business crossroads in the space of a single generation. Also, the city’s futuristic design, luxurious shopping venues, contemporary architecture and the abundance of goods and projects throughout signify extreme wealth, synonymous with gold. But the “City of Gold” nickname has a literal meaning for Emirates traders in the precious metal and with a good reason. Dubai has built itself as a major gold trading center by sourcing its raw materials from Africa and selling the finished products to buyers in the expanding economies of India and China. Dubai owns 29% of gold trade market in the world, with almost 1,200 tons of the metals traded in the city’s gold souks.
From ancient times, no other metal has fascinated mankind as gold has and its story is as rich as the metal itself. Of all precious metals known to man only gold combines lustrous beauty and easy workability. Discovered about 8,000 years ago, gold was used by pharaohs in ancient Egypt as far back as 3000 BC. In 560 BC, it was used for the first time as money in the Kingdom of Lydia, the modern-day Turkey. Greece and Rome both left rich legacies of golden treasures, but after the fall of the Roman Empire, little gold was produced in Europe or Asia for almost a thousand years.
Today, Dubai is a major retail market with hundreds of shops selling gold, but the biggest draw is The Gold Souk, where prices are some of the most competitive in the world. The Gold Souk needs to be seen at least once. It has been around for almost 100 years and is the most bustling of Dubai’s old souks. It is home to the worlds’ heaviest ring, the Star of Taiba, weighing 125 pounds and studded with 11 pounds of Swarovski stones. Endorsed by the World Gold Council, the ring made by Taiba Gold and Jewelry of Saudi Arabia also has a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records certifying its ‘weight in gold’.
The merchandise offered at The Gold Souk is scrupulously regulated by the UAE government, ensuring authenticity, something mostly lacking from the street vendors outside. What is not regulated is the price, which makes haggling an integral part of the experience. At its inception in the early 1900s there were only a handful of local jewelers. It grew considerably in the 1940s when new trade policies encouraged Iranian and Indian entrepreneurs to set up shop, but it was the oil boom of the 1970s that made the Dubai Gold Souk the icon it is today. The market has undergone a process of expansion and gentrification through the years, but it has managed to retain the charm and atmosphere of an Arabian souk. It’s said that no less than 10 tons of gold are spread across the vendors on any given day—a claim that’s tough to prove, but hard to dispute.
Buying Gold at the Deira Gold Souk
When in Dubai, it is almost impossible not to visit the gold markets. This is one of the popular tourist destinations of the emirate. After all, this city is known for its gold trade. With almost countless retailers around, you might wonder which areas you should check out to shop. You can never go wrong with the Deira Gold Souk in Old Dubai. In case you’re planning to buy gold, here are a few tips to help you understand how things work.
- Know the market price. Gold is like stocks, their price fluctuates on a daily basis. So it is only prudent to know how much it goes for in the open market. Aside from your knowledge of gold, this is probably the most important factor you must know before proceeding to buy gold in Deira Gold Souk. By knowing market price, you are able to haggle with the vendors. The Dubai Retail Gold Rate is a good place to start. Going prices in AED is posted at the market for going price.
- Know the types of Gold. Like anything that you want to buy, doing your research pays a lot. Gold is sold by the Karat and weight. The higher the Karat , the purer that gold is. This means a 24 Karat gold is 100% pure gold. Because pure gold is soft, it hardens by mixing it with different metals such as silver, zinc, copper and nickel. Gold also comes in different colors which explain the type of alloys and the percentage of alloys mixed with it.
- Choose your jewellery. Once you know what type of accessory you want, whether it’s a ring, bracelet, necklace, earring, gold chain, etc., ask about its Karat and weight. The attendants will weigh the pieces you choose.
- Learn to Haggle. Haggling is an art and you will learn it after you go through different shops. Sellers will expect you to haggle so they have price buffers when you do so. Try bartering 25% off the quoted price, you might get lucky. In the same fashion, try to barter according to the price you can afford. But be prepared to walk away if you don’t agree to a compromise. Some sellers will ask you how much you can afford just to sell a piece. The haggling is based on the RATE and the MAKE. RATE – check the rate of gold per Karat from the prices which are posted outside. These are real-time updates according to how much the price per Karat is of the gold. It can be assured that shops are strict and are always in tune with the rate of the gold. Because they are regularly monitored by Dubai Police. If a customer complains that they have been tricked, their shops will be at stake. So expect that the gold rate is uniform across all stores. MAKE – this is the price of the labour of the jewellery that you are buying. The more intricate the design is, the pricier the MAKE charge is. But usually, this is where you an haggle, as different shops usually have same pieces/designs, you can try to ask for a cheaper MAKE charge. The more pieces you buy, the more you can barter for. But know as well that the more intricate the design of the piece you choose, the harder it is to haggle for the lowest price you want. Gold is sold by Karat and weight so you can only haggle on the labour it took to create the piece.
- Go around different shops. Before settling for a piece, shop around. Most of the stores have the same pieces, they only differ in the price based on your bartering skills. You have over hundreds of retailers to choose from. Another tip here, the shops in nooks and corners (not the ones easily accessible) have better price rates because not much foot traffic pass through these areas. So it’s good to go to narrower alleys in the souk to find better deals. Be sure to stick around the stores where the quality of gold being sold is closely monitored by the government. It doesn’t hurt as well to ask about the quality of the gold from the shopkeepers. “Is this gold fake or an imitation?” is a regular question they get asked a lot of times so don’t be shy to ask that. Anyway, a usual response from them is NO (of course). They will assure you that if they sell fake stuff, their business will be closed down.
- Don’t be too stingy. Sometimes it pays if you don’t go into an argument to get the lowest rate you can get. If you’ve already chosen an accessory but could not haggle for the lowest price, then either step out of the shop or just agree. Besides, if it’s within your budget, that shouldn’t be much of a problem, right? Sometimes, the seller will slash off another dollar or so to show their appreciation that you are willing to purchase. We’ve tried that when we didn’t put up too much of a haggle when we bought some rings.
The Deira Gold Souk is open from Saturday to Thursday at 10 AM to 10 PM, while on Fridays are at 4PM to 10 PM.