Shopping in Dubai, what to buy and where

Dubai is synonymous with shopping: there is no shortage of shopping opportunities in the city, thanks to the numerous shopping malls and souqs, the typical Arabian markets.
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The city of Dubai is a true paradise for shopping enthusiasts. Here you will find the largest shopping malls in the world, where you can buy practically anything, from traditional clothes to antiques, from jewellery to clothing by the biggest international brands.

But there are also numerous souks, i.e. the traditional Arabian markets, where shopkeepers offer their colourful products for sale, inviting you to enter their small shops to show you their wares, offering you a good tea to start a tight bargain.

Why shop in Dubai

Dubai has practically become so synonymous with shopping that it has earned the nickname ‘Do Buy’: thanks to the huge amount of goods passing through its port, practically everything is available at very competitive prices. Shopping in Dubai is so important that shops stay open every day until 10 o’clock in the evening, while at weekends they extend the hours until midnight.

Shopping in Dubai is also enjoyable because of its great prices, especially for electronic goods, local antiques, textiles and especially gold. Other products, such as those sold by international chains or big brands, cost about the same as elsewhere in the world.

Going shopping in Dubai is a very interesting opportunity to look at the city from another perspective, from another point of view. In Dubai, they know this only too well, which is why the malls are actually cities within cities, where you can certainly shop, but also refresh yourself in the many restaurants or entertain yourself in a variety of ways: from cinemas to ice-skating rinks, watching live singers, huge aquariums or fountains, to the most amazing thing you can find in a city like this: a ski slope built inside a mall.

Dubai Shopping Malls

The city of Dubai has the largest and most incredible shopping malls in the world. The reason is simple: in summer, temperatures in the city reach extreme peaks and going out becomes prohibitively expensive, so these malls are not only places to buy anything and everything, but also social hubs with bars, restaurants, cafes, art installations and entertainment for the whole family.

There are three shopping malls in Dubai that are really worth a visit. One must start with the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world, which houses hundreds and hundreds of shops as well as a skating rink, the world’s largest aquarium and a wonderful fountain.

Not to be missed is a visit to the Mall of the Emirates, another of the most visited places by tourists whose trademark is Ski Dubai, an artificial ski slope complete with chairlift and snow playground for children.

The third and last really unmissable shopping centre in the city is the Ibn Battuta Mall, dedicated to the Berber explorer of the same name and located at the southern end of the city; it has over 270 shops and is divided into six zones (Egypt, India, China, Andalusia, Persia and Tunisia), each of which presents architectural features typical of the place it represents.

Other malls that are also worth a visit are the Madinat Jumeirah, located near the Burj al Arab, and the Marina Mall, built in the heart of the lively Dubai Marina district.

Staying in a shopping mall

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Entrance regulations

All Dubai malls have regulations displayed at the entrance, indicating what is prohibited to do inside.

Women are supposedly forbidden to show their shoulders and legs, but this rule is completely ignored by all non-Muslim female visitors, reflecting the fact that Dubai is, in any case, a very tolerant city when it comes to religion.

Dogs, even small dogs, are usually banned, and it is strictly forbidden to exchange effusions: no holding hands, let alone kissing in public.

Shopping mall patrons

The mall-goers in Dubai reflect the multiculturalism of the city: although Arabs are the hosts, they are only a minority, and are recognisable because the men dress in the characteristic white suit, while the women are supposed to be veiled and dressed in black.

There are many Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis, who dress in their typical attire, and numerous Chinese and Westerners, both tourists and businessmen (the former often in awkward outfits, the latter very elegant and in suits and ties).

Each shopping centre has a small mosque that Muslims can use to pray. Some of the larger ones, when it is prayer time, let everyone know by projecting this information on all the screens, thus allowing those of the Islamic faith to gather.

What to buy in malls

What to buy in Dubai’s shopping malls is subjective: there is no shortage of luxury boutiques, but the prices they offer are practically identical to those found in the rest of the world.

Electronics are very affordable, but before venturing into a purchase, one should carefully check that the device is compatible in one’s own country (for example: computers are very cheap, but those used to different keyboard layouts might find it difficult, even phones are cheap but one should check that they are unlocked for worldwide use).

Unlike our shopping malls, in Dubai there is also room for small traders, for shops that are often unique and deviate from the usual franchise shops of the big international chains. Some even have a souq-style area, which clearly has little authenticity and where one can find typical Arabian knick-knacks such as lamps, babouches or textiles at rather inflated prices.

Eating in shopping malls

All shopping malls in Dubai have a food court, i.e. an area dedicated to dining where restaurants and fast food outlets are located next to each other. Practically all the cuisines of the world are on offer, from the inevitable Italian cuisine to oriental cuisine, from Greek cuisine to Brazilian cuisine.

Spending time in a food court ordering specialities from any part of the world is a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and experience new tastes, often at very competitive prices.

Dubai souks

There are numerous souks in Dubai, two of which are located in the Deira area and are the spice souk, and the gold souk, where one can get exceptional bargains provided, of course, one has a good knowledge of the subject.

There is also a nice souk in Bur Dubai, the cloth souk, although the latter has now become more of a tourist attraction than an opportunity to see the city’s inhabitants at work in their shopping.

Dubai Summer Surprises

Dubai Summer Surprises, also known in the city as DSS, is a calendar of summer events and activities for the whole family that take place in various parts of the city. It usually lasts 45 days and its origins date back to 1998, when the rulers of Dubai city decided to position the city as a summer tourist destination.

The festival is one of the highlights of Dubai’s summer, with tourists arriving from all corners of the Arab Emirates and the world. More than six thousand shops and shopping centres participate in the event, bringing shoppers numerous events and the chance to get great bargains, thanks to discounts of up to 70 per cent on a wide range of products, as well as competitions and raffles with cars, cash and vouchers as prizes.

All major malls in the city, from the Dubai Mall to the Mall of the Emirates, stage all kinds of events, entertainment and shows during the Dubai Summer Surprises festival.

Every year, international guests come to the city to attend Dubai Summer Surprises and take part in one of its many events, both for children and for the whole family. As well as being a shopping opportunity, the festival features a host of events and shows that will delight young and old alike.

The mascot of the Dubai Summer Surprises is called Modhesh, a word that in Arabic means ‘unbelievable’, or ‘amazing’, gives just the sense of what this festival represents for Dubai.

The event brings to the city numerous activities and games for children, who are sure to be involved in something creative and new. Fans of shows and performances, on the other hand, will be able to enjoy live performances by talented artists, musicians and dancers at the various locations where the festival is held in the city.

There is also a part of Dubai Summer Surprises that is celebratory of the UAE culture. Oases, Bedouin tents and traditional shows are set up where tourists and residents can admire the art, history and tradition of this part of the world, immersing themselves in the enormous cultural and historical heritage of the area.

Dubai Shopping Festival

For shopaholics, the truly unmissable event in the city is the Dubai Shopping Festival (often abbreviated to DSF), an event that started back in 1996 to stimulate trade in this part of the world. It has since been promoted as one of the city’s major tourist attractions; it is an annual event, lasts one month (dates vary from year to year, but always fall between January and February) and attracts over 3 million visitors.

During the Dubai Shopping Festival, shops offer their best discounts, competitions are held to win luxury goods such as cars and jewellery, and fireworks shows are held.


Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

Known to be the second largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall houses many attractions, theme parks and a huge aquarium.
Ibn Battuta Mall

Ibn Battuta Mall

One of the most beautiful and distinctive shopping malls in Dubai is undoubtedly the Ibn Battuta Mall, built with inspiration from the Berber explorer's travels.
Mall of the Emirates

Mall of the Emirates

The Mall of the Emirates is one of the most famous shopping malls in Dubai. It consists of over 600 shops and even has a ski slope inside.
Souks and markets in Dubai

Souks and markets in Dubai

Dubai, like any self-respecting Arab city, is dense with souks, the city's typical markets where you can find anything and where the main rule is to haggle.

How to save on transport and entrance fees

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