Dubai is famous for its atmospheric souks, which are a treasure trove for everything from gold jewellery to aromatic spices. Put your bargaining skills to the test (it’s a sure thing) at the glittering Dubai Gold Souk on the Deira side of Dubai Creek. A hub for gold traders since the 1930s, its 300 or so shops are thronged by tourists seeking a gilded buy (Arabic name necklaces are a popular choice). It's easy to arrive by taxi, but if you really want to ‘go local’, hop aboard a motorised abra at Bur Dubai Abra Station and set sail for Deira Old Souk Abra Station (operating from 6am to midnight, Dhs1 per person per trip.
Another treasure trove for jewellery, albeit in in a more modern, air-conditioned, mall-like setting, is Gold & Diamond Park (+971 4 362 7777) on Sheikh Zayed Road. It's home to more than 90 retailers showcasing sparkling buys at competitive prices. Plus, you can have your own designs custom-made at the hands of skilled local artisans. Just tell them what you want, and then negotiate the best price.
Close by, the blink and you’ll miss it Spice Souk is home to a fragrant clutch of market stalls fronted by hessian sacks overflowing with aromatic spices. Stock up on the best Iranian saffron, the Emirati spice mix bezar, as well as pungent dried local lemons to add a citrusy note to a stew or tagine.
For a fragrant buy of a different kind, head to the Perfume Souk, which is great for getting your hands on the traditional Arabian scent, oud, as well as potent essential oils.
Dubai Textile Souk, on the opposite bank of Dubai Creek, is a fabric nirvana for shoppers with an eye on bespoke tailoring. The colourful souk has everything from swathes of sari silk to bolts of embroidered cotton.
For a more polished experience, head to Souk Madinat Jumeirah (+971 4 366 8888), which has been designed in the style of an authentic Arabian marketplace, and explore the labyrinthine lanes lined with barrows and stalls selling souvenirs, jewellery, oud and other trinkets.
Similarly, the smaller Souk Al Bahar (+971 4 362 7011) in Downtown Dubai has a smattering of shops, many of which are situated on the waterfront promenade on the fringes of Burj Lake, offering everything from carpets to handicrafts, jewellery, art and perfume.