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Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Shopping the Dubai Souqs

Shop 'til you drop - authentic traditional Arabian markets

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    This guide contains photos
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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.2 miles / 1.9 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
Overview: Step back in time and wander around Dubai’s souqs, some of the area’s last thriving authentic outdoor Arabian markets.

The Dubai Souqs offer an opportunity to experience the simple pleasure of strolling through covered alleyways in search of exotic surprises or simple everyday necessities. With their narrow alleyways and colorful vendors, each is an authentic, unique shopping experience.

They are located on opposite sides of the Dubai Creek in the old neighborhoods of Dubai. On the Deira side visit the Gold Souq and the Spice Souq then ride an abra, a traditional boat used to cross the Dubai Creek, to visit the Textile Souq.

In each, you will find a virtual cacophony of men’s and women’s fashions, jewelry, everyday necessities, souvenirs and much more. You will love the shopping bargains.

Tips: Best to start early in the morning before it gets too hot or go late afternoon when it begins to cool. Souqs are open by 9am with most stalls closing between 1 and 4pm during the most intense heat of the day. They stay open until around 9pm.

As these are the traditional neighborhoods of Dubai, modest dress is appropriate. Women and men should be loosely covered from the neck, to the elbow, to the knee. Pashima scarves come in very handy here.

Take a taxi – they are plentiful and cheap and parking is non-existent. But beware the 4pm taxi shift change with no taxis appearing again until about 4:30pm.

Be prepared for aggressive vendors. Just practice saying “no” on the way there. Especially be wary of the “street entrepreneurs” who offer fake watches and handbags; best to just not acknowledge them and keep moving.

Take a bottle of water. Dubai is always hot.

And be ready to bargain, bargain, bargain. It's part of the sport in Dubai.

Points of Interest


Dubai Gold Souk

Have the taxi drop you at Al Khor Street and 103 Road where there is a Damas jewelry shop. Walk down the street to the wooden arches that mark the entrance to the Gold Souq. Take your time wandering through the alleyways ogling the wide array of gold jewelry.

Make note of the elaborate Arab wedding jewelry pieces displayed in the windows. Gold is the preferred wedding gift in the Arabian world. Gold is sold by weight so if you are interested in making a purchase check the price of gold before leaving your hotel.

Don’t miss the Guinness World Record’s heaviest gold ring, the Najmat Taiba, created by Taiba for Gold and Jewellery Co., LTD. It is contains 5.17 kg of precious stones set on a 58.686 kg 21 carat gold ring. And has a total weight of 63.865 kg. It is displayed in the window of the Damas Jewelry store.

When you have seen enough gold make your way to the Spice souq – best to just ask anyone the way – the natives are friendly and it is just a short walk.

Dubai Spice Souk

Your nose will definitely let you know when you arrive.

The wafting aromas of exotic spices in the dark alleyways are delicious. Large bags of spices lining the walls beckon you with their aromas. . . cinnamon . . . cardamom . . . turmeric . . . red pepper . . . curry . . . not only are they scrumptious to smell, the array of colors is a delight for the eyes. The vendors may seem aggressive but just pick one who appeals to you and make your purchases.

Inside the shops the merchants can fix you up a special elixir for any ailment you have. Teas are delicious and spices last a long time so stock up.

When you have had your fill of spices ask for directions to the Abra boat docks located at junction of Baladiya Street and Banyiyas street. Once again, you will find everyone very helpful and eager to help you on your way.

Dubai Creek Abra Boat Ride

An abra is the traditional boat used to transport people across the Dubai Creek.

Dubai Creek is the heart and soul of old Dubai’s commerce. Since Dubai’s earliest days, almost all goods were shipped into the city on dhows (traditional Arab cargo boats) from neighboring Arab countries. Today, the Creek is still a major contributor to Dubai’s bustling commerce.

Enjoy the cooling ride to the other side of the creek as you watch the commercial cargo dhows work their trade. Abra ride cost: 1 dirham/about 27 US cents. For AED 120 (approx $33) you can take an hour long tour of the creek in an abra.

When boarding the abra double check with the captain that it is the trip you want.

Bayt Al Wakeel Restaurant

You will find a number of “cafeteria stands” around where you can get a cool drink, but if you are ready to rest a bit, make your way to the Bayt Al Wakeel Restaurant for some local fare. Enjoy your refreshments on the open air deck overlooking the creek.

When you exit the Abra landing station go left down the first alley and you should see the signs directing you left to the waterfront restaurant. This is also the best place for a toilet break as they are non-existent in the souqs.

Dubai Textile Souq

From the restaurant you can meander through the textile souq’s alleyways feasting your eyes on groaning displays of colorful materials. You will find good bargains on clothing, pashima shawls, traditional Emirati dress and all manner of things made of cloth.

Luxurious silks from India in deep rich colors, playful patterns for cushions and tablecloths, beaded material for that oh-so-special occasion dress are all offered at unbelievable low prices. For 100 dhs ($27) you can purchase enough material to make a table cloth and eight napkins. For 250 dhs ($68) you can purchase enough material to make a beautiful flowing kaftan.

Want to have something special made. Most merchants can have it made for you and delivered to your hotel within 24 hours. But pick the larger established stores for this.

The best way home will be a taxi. It shouldn’t be a problem hailing one on any of the major streets.
Pictures in this guide taken by: katiefoster46, Photo by Katie Foster

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About the Author

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Katie is an American expat freelance travel writer living in Dubai, UAE. Her interests include travel,...

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