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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 26 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Nicola Chilton

With one of the world’s most connected airports, serviced by one of the world’s biggest airlines, Dubai has become an epicentre of global travel. Probably no wonder then that it has also emerged as one of the world’s leading shopping destinations.

Extraordinary shopping malls – vast in scale and scope – are dotted all over the city. The big malls are destinations in themselves, mini-cities within the city, home to entertainment zones and hundreds of restaurants.

The most atmospheric places to shop though are the traditional souks (bazaars) in Deira and Bur Dubai on either side of Dubai Creek, (although the vendors can be extremely persistent at times).

You’ll also find concept stores in various locations, particularly around the Jumeirah neighbourhood, stocking products from local and regional designers, floaty kaftans, homeware and accessories.

What to buy

Must-buy souvenirs include carpets, Arabian attars (perfumes), sheesha pipes, bronze coffee pots, Aladdin slippers, Bedouin jewellery, antique khanjar daggers, Gulf-style incense burners, dates, and fluffy toy camels for kids.

Dubai’s extraordinary shopping mega-malls

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

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Bucket List Experience
Dubai’s extraordinary shopping mega-malls

Dubai’s extraordinary malls are a shopper’s heaven but so much more. They’re entertainment hubs, with cinema complexes, ski slopes, ice rinks, giant aquariums and regular live events.

Best for ages 4+

Duration: -

Dubai Shopping Festival

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

sign for dubai shopping festival

More than just a shopping festival – though the festival does bring huge discounts at all the malls – there’s also plenty of entertainment and events, including traditional heritage activities, happening all over the city.

Best for ages 13+

Duration: 6 weeks

When: Mid-Dec & Jan

Frequency: annually

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Gold Souk

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Gold on the famous "Golden souk" in Dubai Deira market. Deira is an old commercial center of Dubai with the biggest street market.

An atmospheric bazaar where dazzling chains, earrings, headdresses and more drip from the shop windows, and good deals can be had if you know what you’re looking for. It’s regulated by the Dubai government to ensure authenticity.

Best for ages 13+

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Madinat Jumeirah

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Madinat Jumeirah

A staggering replica of an Arabian walled citadel from medieval times, complete with towering sand-coloured buildings topped by wind towers, a touristy-but-fun covered souk, some great restaurants and bars, and a maze of meandering canals and lagoons plied by abras.

Best for ages 10+

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O’de Rose Concept Store

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

O’de Rose Concept Store

This multi-room concept store in the residential Umm Suqeim neighbourhood is full of Middle East-inspired contemporary treasures, from floaty kaftans and straw beach bags to homewares, glassware, ceramics and accessories.

Best for ages 13+

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Spice Souk

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Variety of spices and herbs on the arab street market stall. Dubai Spice Souk, United Arab Emirates.

While some stores feel a little touristy, locals really do stock up on spices here too. From Iranian saffron to piles of chilis, cloves and spice mixes, the shopkeepers will be happy to tell you about their stock and how you can use the spices back home.

Best for ages 8+

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Swiss Arabian

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Swiss Arabian

The UAE’s first perfume house, established in 1974, Swiss Arabian is the perfect introduction to the heady fragrances so popular in the region, such as oud, amber and musk. You can also pick up bukhoor and dukhoon, perfume-soaked wood chips used to scent the home.

Best for ages 13+

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Textile Souk

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

colorful shoes in souk Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Running alongside Dubai Creek, the main lane of the souk is firmly for tourists and vendors can be quite persistent. Head one street back to find the real textile shops that cater to local tailors, with hues of every colour, shimmering satins, thousands of sequins, and the classic blacks and whites that are used to make Emirati traditional dress.

Best for ages 8+

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Souq Madinat

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

People shop at Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The traditional Arab style bazaar is part of Madinat Jumeirah resort.

It may veer on the kitsch, with its bazaar of Aladdin’s Cave-style shops, but some of the boutiques stock high-quality embroidered fabrics, pashminas and scarves. When you’re shopped out, there’s a great selection of restaurants outside, and cute little abra boats to ride around the man-made canals.

Best for ages 8+

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: -

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Dubai

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Burj Khalifa rising above Dubai downtown cityscape high angle view view at sunset. United Arab Emirates modern architecture and travel abstract

A desert city playground with a unique combination of Arabian culture, mega-malls and audacious architecture in a setting of year-round sun, sand and sea. Great family hotels and a ridiculous number of family attractions too.