The city, the largest and most populated in the United Arab Emirates, is Arab at its core but capitalist at its edge. That means shopping — from glistening shopping malls to traditional markets from another era.
If you’re a shopper and a traveler, here are five places you’ll want to visit:
1. Dubai Mall
This is the world’s largest mall, with 1,200 shops and a retail floor area of more than half a million square meters. It’s also filled with more luxury designer brands than you can shake a credit card at — Gucci, Dior, Prada, Burberry and so on. When it comes to outrageous, Gold Souk takes the gong.
The most amazing thing about this place is the fact that there’s seemingly no one guarding the large amount of precious metal behind its regular glass shop windows.
2. Souk Madinat Jumeirah
A visitor walks through the Souk Madinat, a marketplace with craft shops inside the Madinat Jumeirah resort.
Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Attached to the adjacent Jumeirah Beach Hotel, this labyrinth of high-end market stalls selling everything from expensive shisha pipes to antique furniture and jewelry is Dubai’s take on a Middle Eastern souk. There’s no hustle and bustle, no dirty corridors or fake goods.
Instead shoppers can browse in perfumed, air-conditioned corridors and rest in between stress-free shopping at one of the many bars or restaurants in the complex.
Unsurprisingly, locals and expats don’t shop here, although it has become a social hangout, and visitors can pick up a well-made gift at an inflated price if they’re so inclined.
3. BurJuman Centre
BurJuman Centre has classic high-end stories such as Cartier as well as outdoor gardens.
This high-end mall is set in a poorer area of Dubai, yet it houses Cartier, Bvlgari, Versace and Louis Vuitton outlets as well as midrange brands Guess and DKNY.
Despite the staple luxury goods, this mall has a different feel than the other mega-indoor complexes, with outdoor gardens to explore in between mortgage-busting purchases, a rarity in Dubai.
4. Ibn Battuta Mall
Ibn Battuta Mall is named for the 14th century Arab scholar and traveler.
Well worth a visit, this mall not only offers a selection of familiar stores, including Top Shop, Next, H&M and Accessorize, but it also sports off-the-wall decor inspired by the travels of 14th century Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta.
Here you’ll find a giant model of a ship and an elephant, plus displays telling the story of Battuta’s travels. The “Persia” section of the mall has an incredible hand-painted dome; the “Egypt” section has walls covered in hieroglyphics.
5. Bur Dubai Souk
Try your haggling skills at Bur Dubai Souk.
Parallel to the Creek in Bur Dubai, the souks in this area sell pashminas, dishdashas, spices and gifts. It’s a touristy area but a good place to try your haggling skills with friendly shop vendors. The end of the souk offers a fascinating glimpse into the local community.
Here you’ll find the Shri Nathje Jayate Temple and a Hindu lane, where hawkers sell flower garlands, Indian sweets and incense. Holographic Shiva pictures and packets of bidis go for a couple of dollars.