Start at the souks
For the quintessential Arabian shopping experience, head to the souks in Bur Dubai and Deira (an abra-ride away from each other across Dubai Creek). In Deira, you’ll find the world’s largest Gold Souk, said to hold 10 tonnes of gold at any given time. There are hundreds of shops crammed with a dizzying array of bracelets, necklaces, rings and precious gems. Gold is sold by weight, based on international gold rates, so it’s only really the craftsmanship you’ll be able to bargain down. The more intricate the design, the more you can expect to pay.
It’s also worth checking out the small Perfume Souk for Arabian perfume oils (attars) in gem-encrusted gold and silver bottles. There’s also a Spice Souk selling herbs, spices, dried fruits and frankincense, as well as souvenirs. In Bur Dubai, there’s the atmospheric Textile Souk, filled with fabrics in vibrant colours and patterns. Pick up some material here – be prepared to haggle – and then visit one of the copy-tailors in Bur Dubai and Satwa, where they’ll custom-make your favourite item from a photo or sample. For a more upmarket, less authentic souk experience, visit Souk Al Bahar and Souk Madinat, modern recreations of old-world bazaars and good places to pick up classy souvenirs.
…then move to the malls
First stop for any self-respecting fashionista should be the mother of all malls, the Dubai Mall. With 1,200 stores and over 200 food outlets, not to mention an Olympic-sized ice rink, indoor theme parks, massive aquarium and even a 155 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, it’s more like a mini-city than a shopping centre. It’s home to legendary New York department store, Bloomingdale’s, which has high fashion, jewellery, cosmetics and homewares, as well as French favourite, Galeries Lafayette – a great place to shop for fashion, lingerie, accessories and homewares with a Parisian feel. If you’re flagging, stop for a bite to eat at the upmarket Lafayette Gourmet, or Fortnum & Mason, the venerable British brand’s first store outside of the UK. Then head to Fashion Avenue, the largest collection of labels under one roof anywhere in the world. You’ll find high-end designer stores such as Armani, Chanel and Louis Vuitton and high street heroes such as Topshop, Zara and Mango. If shoes are your weakness, make a beeline for Level Shoe District, the world’s largest luxury shoe store, where you’ll find coveted creations from the likes of Christian Louboutin, Giuseppe Zanotti and Marc Jacobs.
Not to be sniffed at is the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai’s second largest with over 450 stores, 85 restaurants, the world’s largest indoor ski slope, a 14-cinema complex and two five-star hotels. Last year, it unveiled its own Fashion District with more than 30 stores, including a number of new arrivals to the region such as Halston Heritage, McQ by Alexander McQueen and Sandro. Other fashionable names include Karen Millen, Ted Baker and Betty Barclay. The mall also has British department stores, Harvey Nichols and Debenhams, as well as high street names like French Connection, Diesel and Gap.
Meanwhile, BurJuman, has over 300 high-end and high-street brands, including the highest concentration of couture stores in the city. Here you’ll find New York department store, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermès, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Fendi, Cartier, and many more. Finally, the Gold & Diamond Park in Al Quoz is the place for jewellery, with around 90 reputable retailers.