DUBAI SHOPPING SPREE
Dubai Shopping Spree - Luxury Travel Magazine
Dubai Shopping Spree
|By: Lucy Jones, Issue 46 – Autumn 2011|
|THE BEST REASON TO CHOOSE DUBAI AS A SHOPPING DESTINATION IS THE SHEER NUMBER OF SHOPS AND, AS LUCY JONES DISCOVERED, A GREAT RATE ON GOLD JEWELLERY.|
Dubai you can shop in the world’s most modern and luxurious malls or poke through spice markets that have been operating since Dubai was a sleepy port town, all in the one afternoon. Likewise, the mysterious Arabic women in burqas who roam the air-conditioned malls and markets may look traditional, but their Louis Vuitton handbags are a dead giveaway.
In 2008 it was estimated that one quarter of the world’s cranes were in Dubai and, from the looks of the city now, they were all building shopping malls. Dubai is filled with the gleaming edifices and decorative colonnades of huge shopping centres, more than 70 in total, housing every local, international and designer brand a shopper could dream of. Everything in Dubai is done on a grand scale and the malls are no different.
The king of them all is the Dubai Mall with more than 1,200 stores sprawling over 12 million square feet in the prestigious Burj Khalifa complex. It is the world’s largest mall by area (half of everything in the city can be prefaced by the phrase “world’s largest or tallest”) and sixth largest by leasable space. Everything from Bloomingdale’s to Nike to Chanel can be found inside. The Fashion Avenue precinct of the mall is a customised zone dedicated to haute couture, with its own VIP entrance. The Alexander McQueen store is a standout and the Gucci and Hermes stores are almost as beautiful as the products inside.
Shopping at the Dubai Mall is a full day exercise, so you’ll need to refuel. There are a number of restaurants in the mall, but I chose to visit the world’s largest candy store on the ground floor. Candylicious is 10,000 square feet of sweet treats decked out like Willy Wonka’s factory – think lollipop trees, walls of gummi bears and pillars studded with marshmallows.
Across town in New Dubai is the Mall of the Emirates, made instantly recognisable by the enormous silver shell of Ski Dubai that sweeps across its roof. Though much smaller than the Dubai Mall it is still vast with more than 500 stores anchored by British staples Debenhams and Harvey Nichols. I spent some serious time in cult favourite Zara and make up emporium Sephora, which sit alongside luxe staples like Dior, Marc Jacobs and Versace. The newly opened Fashion Dome added 40 more high end stores to the Mall of Emirates stable and new stores open almost every week.
If you like a bit of kitsch with your couture then the Ibn Battuta Mall is the place to go. The world’s largest themed mall, it is divided into six courts that celebrate the travels of famed Arabic explorer Ibn Battuta. Most of the luxury brands, like Bauhaus, Betsey Johnson and local boutique Ginger and Lace, are in the Indian court but don’t miss the hand painted ceiling in Persia or the famous Lion Fountain in Andalusia. The BurJuman Mall in Bur Dubai is also worth a look for its high concentration of designer stores. It houses the second largest Saks Fifth Avenue outside the United States as well as standard Dubai luxury fare like Christian Lacroix, Fendi and Kenneth Cole.
If you need a break, there is much more to the malls than just the shops. They are home to a 22,000 square metre ski field, Olympic sized ice rinks, interactive theme parks and a 275 metre fountain that shoots water 50 storeys into the air. It is quite an experience to be wandering with your shopping bags and come up against a mini-St Moritz or a rare scalloped hammerhead shark. The indoor aquarium in the Dubai Mall even boasts the world’s largest acrylic panel, though I’m not sure who measures that sort of thing.
If you can escape the malls there is a more authentic Arabic shopping experience waiting at one of the city’s many souks. Beware the fake souks, like Souk Madinat in Jumeirah or Souk Al Bahar in Burj Khalifa. These Disney-esque markets have been built solely to relieve tourists of their cash. There are some treasures to be found there, but its mostly tat. Expensive tat. Head instead to the Gold Souk in Deira where hundreds of stores line the alleyways, their windows full of necklaces, rings, bracelets, money clips and even the occasional tiara. The gold is generally between 18 andn24 carat and there are strict regulations regarding the authenticity of the gold, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be sold a fake. The gold price is set twice a day by the Dubai Gold and Jewellery group and pieces are sold by weight, meaning the prices are among the lowest in the world. And because it’s a market, there’s always room to haggle. If you prefer to purchase your gold in air-conditioned comfort, the Dubai Mall houses a sort of souk-lite on the ground floor. It is the world’s largest indoor gold souk with over 200 shops set around themed Arabian courtyards and corridors.
Adjacent to the Gold Souk is the famous Spice Souk. It’s a sensory overload in the narrow lanes lined with barrels of saffron, frankincense, aniseed and just about any other spice you can think of. Friendly salespeople will encourage you to touch and taste everything on offer but will drive a hard bargain when it comes time to sell. Dubai is also developing a thriving market scene with art, craft, fabric, flower and fresh food markets springing up across town.
And, if you aren’t all shopped out, remember that Dubai airport has some of the best duty free shopping in the world. I chose to sit in the lounge with a glass of bubbles while waiting for my fl ight, but you can make a few last minute purchases at MAC, Calvin Klein, or Armani before take off.
|Emirates flies direct to Dubai from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth every day. Return economy fares start from A$1,838 and return business fares from A$7,908. Emirates also offers more generous checked baggage allowances with 30kg for economy and 40kg for business passengers.|
|WHERE TO STAY|
|Stay right in the middle of the action - most of the larger malls have at least one hotel attached to them, often with direct mall access, so it’s easy to whisk your new purchases back to your room. |
Here are some luxury examples:
|THE ADDRESS DUBAI MALL|
|PO Box 31166, Dubai, (adjacent to Dubai Mall)|
+971 4 438 8888
RATES: from AED1,199 (around A$322) per night.
|KEMPINSKI HOTEL MALL OF THE EMIRATES|
|Sheikh Zayad Rd, Al Barsha|
+971 4 341 0000
RATES: from AED935 (around A$251) per night.
|THE PULLMAN MALL OF THE EMIRATES|
|Sheikh Zayad Rd, Al Barsha 1|
+971 4 377 2000
RATES: from AED767 (around A$206) per night.
|MOVENPICK IBN BATTUTA GATE|
|PO Box 211508, Dubai, (adjacent to Ibn Battuta Mall)|
+971 4 444 0000
RATES: from AED670 (around A$180) per night.