Are you looking at how much extra luggage space you might need when packing for a Dubai vacation? Fancy picking up something beautiful for you home to remind you of your Dubai vacation?
In this guide, we take you through the top souvenir items that visitors to Dubai will want to look out for, and a few pointers on where you might find a bargain on these items!
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Shopping and trade in Dubai
Let’s turn the clock back to what Dubai is all about. Unlike much of the rest of the country of the United Arab Emirates which was made up of little more than fishing and pearl-diving villages prior to the discovery of oil in the 1960s, Dubai has been an active port city for well over a century.
Dubai grew significantly in the late 19th-century as tax exemption rules were brought in, encouraging a large foreign workforce and traders to arrive en masse to the port city set up on Dubai Creek. The city has earned various nicknames over the years including “The City of Merchants” and “The City of Gold”.
As the generations have passed, the city has certainly changed in population and industry, but one thing the city has kept its reputation for is retail trade! Dubai Creek is as bustling as ever as a trading port, albeit cargo ships now dock at the much larger Jebel Ali Port. Smaller dhows can still be found in their dozens unloading their goods in Deira.
While the traditional souks of Old Dubai in Deira still exist to this day, vast modern shopping malls have taken over in popularity as THE place to shop in Dubai. Bargain hunters will know, however, you need to scratch below the surface for Dubai’s best buys.
A souk or souq in Dubai is a market place – the word is used for both traditional and modern markets in Dubai
Whilst the UAE now has a value added tax on goods sold of 5%, there are still plenty of shopping bargains to be had in Dubai, you’ve just got to find the right places to shop.
Best Places to Shop in Dubai
In modern Dubai, the best place to shop in Dubai is the Dubai Mall. This is the single largest mall in the world with over 1,200 shops. You can find virtually anything you want here. Check out neighbouring Souq Al Bahr too – lots of lovely souvenirs to be found, but you will be paying top $$$ here!
There are plenty of runners up when it comes to modern shopping malls across the city of course; Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Festival City Mall, City Centre Mirdif, City Centre Deira, Ibn Battuta Mall… the list goes on!
If you are seeking out bargains though, you will want to head beyond the major malls. Karama Shopping Complex (Karama Market) and Karama Centre are some of the best places for cheap shopping in Dubai. Items are often much more affordable here than they are anywhere else, and it’s a good place to do some haggling!
But most visitors probably think of the souks of Deira when it comes to nabbing a shopping bargain in Dubai. Not only the world-renowned Gold Souk, but there is also a spice souk, textiles souk and perfume souk. Nearby you will also find Naif Souk which is packed with bargains on electronics to home goods.
And another spot to consider is Dubai Global Village. Open evenings in the winter months, there is a plethora of bargains to be had from merchants all around the world, but particularly a Middle East/Central Asia focus. Come towards the end of the season in March/April as they are closing up for best prices!
Souvenirs – What to buy in Dubai
So how much suitcase space will you need? Here’s our guide to “must-buys” when you’re visiting Dubai for some authentic souvenirs and fabulous memorable gifts from the Middle East.
Persian rugs are one of the most famous things to buy in Dubai. This city is renowned for its gorgeous textiles, and it’s a wonderful way to decorate your home. The really high-quality products can be a little expensive, but you can find more affordable rugs in various souks throughout the city.
Where to buy the best Persian rugs in Dubai: National Iranian Carpets and Persian Carpet House are both located at Souq Madinat Jumeirah or Bur Dubai Textile Souk.
Oudh and Bakhoor
Oudh and Bakhoor are both two of the best things to buy in Dubai. Both of these products provide a very distinct, Middle Eastern scent. They make a great gift for anyone who appreciates sophisticated fragrances. Oudh is an oil made from agarwood resin and tends to be a little more expensive. Bakhoor is simply agarwood chips that release an aroma when burned.
Where to buy the best Oudh and Bakhoor in Dubai: Visit Perfume Souk at Deira for Oudh or Spice Souk for Bakhoor. You can also find these items in perfume shops in any mall.
Aladdin lamps have an obvious charm for anyone who grew up loving the classic Disney film. Besides the nostalgia factor, these brass lamps are beautifully carved and sometimes feature intricate inlay work. Also, you can often haggle to get them at a cheaper price, making them one of the best cheap things to buy in Dubai that will look great on your mantlepiece.
Where to buy the best Aladdin Lamps in Dubai: Karama Market and Karama Centre are both great places to shop for Aladdin lamps.
Camel Milk Chocolate
Why not treat yourself while you’re in Dubai? Camel milk chocolate is one of Dubai’s most famous delicacies. Al Nassma is the original manufacturer of this delicacy and still the best. These chocolates are available in five different flavors. You can even get camel-shaped chocolates, which makes for an excellent and unique gift, truly reminiscent of Dubai!
Where to buy the best camel milk chocolates in Dubai: You can find Al Nassma kiosks at the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, and various other places throughout Dubai.
An important part of Arabic cuisine is the rich flavour that comes from cooking with authentic spices. There is an immense variety of spices to be found in Dubai with influences from all over the region. Transform your cooking at home by bringing some traditional spices back from Dubai with you.
As well as cooking spices, there are plentiful aromatic spices too. (Just check the customs rules on spices for the country you are heading to next).
Where to buy the best spices in Dubai: The Dubai Spice Souk, of course! And major local supermarkets such as Lulu and Carrefour have extensive spice counter selections.
Lanterns are some of the most elegant Dubai souvenirs you can find. These often serve as centerpieces in Arabic homes, and they could serve as a centerpiece in yours as well. They’re often made with very intricate designs using mirrors and stained glass. Prices can range from very affordable to quite expensive.
Where to buy the best lanterns in Dubai: Dragon Mart, Karama Market, and Homes R Us are all excellent places to shop for lanterns in Dubai.
If you’re still wondering what to buy in Dubai, this is an excellent way to treat yourself while participating in an important part of Middle Eastern culture. Dates, or dried fruits, are often given as gifts at the end of the fasting of Ramadan. Along with being a tasty snack, they also have numerous health benefits. There are over 20 varieties in all. Whether for your own pleasure or a beautifully presented gift, you simply can’t leave Dubai without dates!
Where to buy the best dates in Dubai: Go to the Deira Food Market for the best fresh dates. You can also find packed dates at any supermarket in Dubai and many gift shops. Bateel are often touted as the best (and will let you try before you buy!).
Arabic Perfume Oils
This is another way to bring the unique fragrances of Dubai home with you. Arabic perfume oils, also known as Arabic attars or ittar, are made from plant extracts. They are very popular among both men and women. There are literally dozens of different oils to choose from but don’t worry, the vendors’ will willingly help you pick the fragrance that’s right for you.
Where to buy the best perfume oil in Dubai: The Perfume Souk at Deira is the best place to shop for perfumes. You can also find perfume shops in any mall in the city.
Hookahs (Shisha Pipes)
Smoking from hookahs is a very popular pastime in Dubai. You can find one in almost any household and many bars throughout the city. This can be a great way to relax at home, and it’s a beautiful souvenir even if you don’t partake in smoking yourself. Furthermore, it’s a surprisingly affordable souvenir. It’s an excellent choice if you’re still wondering what to buy in Dubai – though do take care with your packing as the glass is fragile.
Where to buy the best hookah from in Dubai: Carrefour Hypermarket is a surprisingly good place to shop for hookahs. You can also find them in Dubai souks and Smokers’ Centre outlets.
A pashmina shawl is one of the most fashionable things to buy in Dubai (and super practical!). These are made from cashmere derived from goat hair, and they make a great gift for your significant other. The most authentic pashmina shawls can get pretty expensive. If you want to save some money, opt for shawls made of silk or viscose instead.
Where to buy the best pashminas in Dubai: These can be found at the Pashmina House, Karama Market, or Bur Dubai Textile Souk.
Arabic Coffee & Coffee Pots
The distinct taste of Arabic Coffee referred to as “qahwa” is likely to be a lasting memory from a visit to Dubai and the UAE. It is, after all, one of the most common acts of hospitality to be served a small cup of coffee as a welcome drink by your hosts.
And what would your coffee be without a coffee pot? Arabica coffee pots, known as “dallah” locally can not only be visually beautiful souvenirs from your trip to Dubai, but also a practical item to use at home. They are distinctive for their long spouts and ornate handles. Be warned, many dallah found in souvenir shops are decorative only, the most functional type to look for is made of copper.
Where to buy it: Dubai Coffee Museum in Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood Villa 44 and the Dubai Spice Souk.
A really quite unique collector’s piece from your trip to Dubai is an Arabian Dagger. Generally used only decoratively, you will want to display this at home. The gently curved tip and intricately deigned pouch and handle. khanjar origanted in Oman
Where to buy the best Arabian Daggers in Dubai: look in the Yemeni and Omani stalls at Dubai Global Village
Finally, you might consider buying some gold jewellery while you’re in the City of Gold. Gold jewellery has a very obvious appeal, and it’s plentiful in Dubai. Because of this, it’s much more affordable than you might expect. It could be the perfect gift for the special person in your life or a great place to come and have something customized made just for you.
Where to buy the best jewellery in Dubait: Dubai Gold Souk and Gold and Diamond Park on Sheikh Zayed Road have excellent selections.