Dubai has over 100 malls, including the largest mall in the world. These are spread across the city, and each of Dubai’s shopping venues take the retail experience to a new level (or multiple levels!). In addition to virtually every global brand, there are plenty of unique, home-grown boutiques and labels not seen anywhere else in the world. There is also an incredible collection of traditional souks (markets) trading in perfume, gold, textiles, spices and more, and in Dubai shopping there is a whole experience in itself.
The Dubai Mall, the biggest mall in the world, is a one stop shop for everything shopping with over 1200 retail outlets and more than 200 food and beverage outlets. Fashionistas will be in retail heaven when they stroll through Fashion Avenue inside Dubai Mall. It exclusively features a huge range of top-end luxury brands like Gucci and collections from designers like Alexander McQueen and Versace. But you’ll also find here the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, indoor theme park SEGA Republic, interactive educational entertainment for kids Kid Zania, 22 screen Reel Cinema megaplex and the Dubai Ice Rink all under the same roof!
The Outlet Village, 45 minutes’ drive from Dubai’s city center is worth the trip with incredible deals. It is an Italian-themed indoor mall that offers iconic brands at discounted prices. There are many other malls around Dubai to get your fix of retail therapy: City Walk, Mercato Mall and Mall of the Emirates.
The Dubai souks are world famous and for good reason. Although most shopping in Dubai nowadays takes places within the malls, the souks continue to offer a vibrant and unique shopping experience for both locals and visitors. There’s different souks around the city with different offerings. The Gold Souk is not to be missed, it is the most visited souk in Dubai, showcasing jewelry made from precious metals and stones. Not far away from the Gold Souk is the Spice Souk and the Perfume Souk. The Spice Souk attracts chefs, cooks and savvy expats purchasing their favorites of the aromatic spices, herbs and incense. The Perfume Souk is filled with rich aromas of amber, rose and jasmine, and it sells both perfume and everything scented: from essential oils to incense sticks, and you can even create your own signature scent at some of the Perfume Souk shops. The go-to for Dubai’s tailors and fashion designers, the Textile Souk is filled with rolls of different kinds of fabrics. Some shopping centers are also pursuing a modern approach to souk shopping with the creation of souks such as Souk Madinat, The Dubai Mall Souk and Souk Al Bahar.
Shopping is an important part of life in Dubai and there is even a festival devoted to it. This annual event is filled with activities making for the perfect shoppers’ paradise every January, and it is an opportunity for shopaholics to have the best deals right in front of them, as most stores offer at least 75% off during this time. Not only do retailers offer huge sales, but there are also pop-up fashion shows inside the stores. The Dubai Summer Surprises festival, in July, also features a range of great shopping bargains. This festival in addition to shopping has events for kids, adventure activities, fitness workshops, street displays and fireworks.
10 Best Souvenirs to Bring Back from Dubai
- Camel milk chocolate is a true home-grown delicacy in Dubai. It is manufactured by just one company, Al Nassma. These products used to be exclusively available in Dubai but has since been exported to Europe and other Asian countries. Al Nassma camel milk chocolate bars come in five varieties: whole milk, 70% cocoa, dates, macadamia, and spiced (Arabia). There are also camel-shaped chocolates that are perfect as quirky souvenirs.
- Dubai dates (dried fruits) are a sweet part of Middle Eastern culture. It plays a prominent role during Ramadan where it is given as gifts and eaten at the end of the fast. They are source of fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium, among others. Dates are believed to have many health benefits like energy boosting. To buy fresh and gourmet dates, make your way to Bateel shops. They have over 20 varieties of dates and Khidri, Sokari, Madjool and Kholas are just a few favorites. Their almond and hazelnut bars are also among the must-tries.
- Persian rugs and carpets are on the expensive side of the souvenir shopping list. It is considered as an investment but you have to check the quality and authenticity if you decide to buy. Affordable carpets are available at Dubai souks. For high quality carpets, buy at National Iranian Carpets or Persian Carpet House. If you don’t like the items on display at these places, you can have one specially made for you.
- If you notice a distinct aroma while exploring Dubai, you may have smelled a whiff of the traditional oudh or bakhoor. Oudh is an expensive fragrance oil derived from agarwood resin. This mesmerizing scent gift is available in forms of pure oil, mixed oil of Oudh and other floral oils like rose and jasmine, and oudh fragrance perfume (Ajmal and Ne’emah). Bakhoor, on the other hand, is the term for agarwood chips that are burned to produce an aroma that permeates an entire room. It is a good alternative to candles and incense. Bringing home a true Middle Eastern scent is always a brilliant idea.
- Attar is the term for essential oils derived from plant sources. These alcohol-free perfumes are widely used by both men and women in Dubai. There are various kinds of attars sold the city. The vendors at the Perfume Souk in Deira can recommend scents for you if you have a hard time choosing. Want to make your own perfume? Just experiment with different mixtures and ask the seller to prepare it for you. You can also opt for the branded versions in popular perfume shops like Anfasic Dokhoon, Hind Al Oud, Khaltat, and Amouage.
- Real pashmina shawls can be expensive. They are made of cashmere that is produced from the hair of goats in South Asia. The cashmere is often blended with 30% silk to produce a soft and smooth fabric. This makes pashmina shawls a special gift for women who are dearest to you. To test the authenticity of the shawl, try pulling the whole shawl through a ring. It should pass through easily. Otherwise, you are holding a shawl made of viscose but being passed off as real pashmina. If you are on a tight budget, you can buy the silk or viscose versions. Just make sure you pay the right price for the right product.
- Gold can be the ultimate souvenir from Dubai. This lasting gift is widely available in Dubai and costs much less than in most big cities. These treasures are perfect gifts for extra special people in your life like your spouse or a parent. When buying gold in Dubai, you don’t have to look any further than the Dubai Gold Souk. The wide array of gold products at this souk is simply astounding that you might have a hard time choosing. Don’t forget to haggle for a good bargain!
- The term Arabica coffee is a testament to the long tradition of coffee farming in the Middle East. Arabic coffee may not suit the taste of some coffee drinkers but it is highly regarded by those who have come to love it. To complete the Arabic coffee drinking experience, look for copper Arabic coffee pots that are suitable for daily use. These designed pots, called “dallah”, can be also used for decorative purposes. Go for the cheaper options if it is only meant for display.
- If you want to bring home the flavors of Dubai with you, then you might be interested in buying some spices from the famous Spice Souk. The Spice Souk is a treasure trove of popular spices as well as rare spices that cannot be bought in supermarkets or anywhere else in the UAE. Their strong aromas make your meals flavorful but make your carry-on luggage smell badly. Just pack them well and put inside your check-in luggage. To save you from further hassle during travel, buy only the spices that you cannot find back home and in smaller quantities.
- Hookah and shisha are often used interchangeably though they differ in their actual meanings. Hookah refers to the pipe itself that is used to smoke shisha. Shisha is the flavored substance that you smoke through a hookah. Shisha is also the term used to refer to the practice of smoking through a hookah. Shisha is a popular pastime in the Middle East. If you walk past a shisha bar, you might catch a whiff of the luscious scents of strawberry, apple, honey, cinnamon, or mint. Shisha-smoking is not necessarily healthier than cigarette-smoking. However, this does not mean that you should be discouraged from buying the beautifully-designed pipe as a keepsake or home décor.