1. Opening Hours
Malls are typically open from 10am to 10pm. Some however, are not open until 2pm on Fridays, the Muslim day of worship, which works out to be fantastic for those on a stopover! Stores outside malls or those at bazaars and markets, close around noon for lunch and rest, and reopen at around 5pm. Considering the heat, this is actually better for shoppers.
The whole shopping experience is most fun at night, when the locals go out to shop. If you’re not a fan of shopping, it is the perfect time to people watch – you can see men and women in their traditional Arab attire casually shopping and dining at the malls.
Keeping in mind that temperatures average 40 degrees Celsius for more than half the year, the shopping mall in Dubai is a haven for shoppers. It is the place to socialize, be it catching a movie with friends or simply to meet for coffee.
One of the largest and perhaps the most beautiful, the Mall of the Emirates is definitely a tourist must-visit. The marble floors and skylight add to the grandeur of the entire place. The mall boasts a wide array of shops and brands including Ski Dubai, a massive indoor ski slope and even a swanky hotel to boot – the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates.
Souks are traditional Middle Eastern-style market places and Dubai has been historically famous for having bright and colourful ones. They are predominantly located in Deira and Bur Dubai – two areas separated by the Dubai Creek. You can easily hop onto an abra (small boat) for 1dirham if you want to get from one side to the other.
If you are looking for an authentic experience, you have a few options – the gold souk, spice souk, perfume souk and textile souk. For a modern take on souks, you have Souk Al Bahar, Souk Madinat Jumeirah and the Dubai Mall Souk.
4. Night Markets and Bazaars
Looking for somewhere to head to once it’s past the usual shopping hours? Fret not, there are shops at bazaars that remain open even past midnight! This is also the place to try out the closest you can get to ‘street food’ in Dubai.
You can get anything from traditional attire, to an array of household items including pots and pans, to replica designer goods and even the latest electronics. Tourists particularly like the glittering sheesha pipes and Moroccan lamps to take home as souvenirs.
5. Dubai Shopping Festival (DSS)
January to February every year is the golden period for getting the best deals in town. It is technically winter season in the Emirates with temperatures averaging 22 degrees Celsius, so the weather is lovely for some hardcore shopping. Marketed as a tourist attraction, the DSS involves not only citywide sales and promotions, but also car raffles that are drawn daily with Porsches as the prize, and fireworks displays at night.
There’s something for everyone at the DSS. Kids have entertainment in the form of street fairs, food stalls and even cultural performances at the Heritage and Diving Village located near Dubai Creek. Here, you can learn about Dubai’s pearl diving past and history and the kids are bound to love the camel rides and falcon displays. One thing to note is that this is also high season, so hotels are likely to be pricier. If you’re planning a trip to take advantage of the DSS, it is best if you book way ahead.
However, if you find that you’re too late with your planning and booking, there’s also a summer equivalent of the DSS – the Dubai Summer Surprises. It’s basically the same thing, but held from June to end August annually. Of course, now you’ll have to brave the sweltering heat, but the upside is that hotel prices are much more affordable.
Lastly, for the most important part when it comes to shopping. Of course, this is only applicable at the souks and night markets. Sure, you can choose not to partake in any form of bargaining or haggling, but then, where’s the fun in that? Also, understand that then you’ll be paying at least double the value.
The rule is to ask for a price, and then suggest 50 percent less. This will earn you a laugh or perhaps a horrified look from the salesman. He’ll counter-offer, but you should stick to your guns. He’ll relent and drop the price and from then on, you’ve already won.