Some people dread shopping for souvenirs because they are afraid of spending too much on overpriced trinkets. Others thoroughly enjoy browsing shops and markets to find the “perfect” souvenir, which ideally is a souvenir that represents the culture of the place they’ve visited.
This article will describe where you can find good souvenirs in Dubai.
Al Karama Market
Al Karama Market is located in a predominantly Indian neighborhood in the heart of Dubai, around 10 minutes from the Dubai Creek. Taxi drivers will know where to take you.
Open from noon until late, al Karama is a place where you can test your bargaining skills. Bring cash, and be prepared to be patient and negotiate. You can definitely pick up some good deals here. There are souvenirs at the Karama Shopping Complex as well.
Kitschy but cute Dubai souvenirs include miniature Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab statues, Russian stacking dolls in the form of a sheikh and sheikha, ornate cushion and table covers, and a variety of genie lamps.
Other gifts include both miniature and full size Hookah pipes and pashmina shawls.
More traditional souvenirs are tall Arabic coffee pots and cups, Moroccan-style lamps and ornaments for the house, wooden doors, and the ubiquitous camel decorations. Many of these souvenirs aren’t made in the UAE, but this is the case for souvenirs all over the world.
The Antique Museum
The Antique Museum in al Quoz may take some finding, but it has bargains similar to those in Karama. There are shelves upon shelves of souvenirs, including antique-looking daggers (called “khanjar”) from Yemen, interesting lamps, and fabulous textiles.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a traditionally styled “souk” or market. It is part of the larger Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort. Bustling with tourists, restaurants and shops, this market is modeled on an old fashioned Arabian market.
However, in the old days, nothing was as luxurious (nor as air-conditioned) as this souk.
Souvenirs in Souk Madinat Jumeirah tend to be overpriced in comparison to similar items found in Karama. You are, however, less likely to be hassled by overbearing shopkeepers or pressured to purchase items because the shops are located in a resort setting.
There are a number of restaurants and clubs at the souk, and you can easily spend half a day here. The outdoor area has a particularly lovely view of the Burj al Arab.
If you stay at the resort complex, abras (water taxis) are free. Abras take you from your hotel to the souk, and for a fee, you can take an abra tour of the resort.
It’s a nice touch, but very much a fairytale representation of what a traditional souk would look like.
The Dubai Mall
On the ground floor of Dubai Mall, there is a souk area with many souvenir shops.
Arabian Oud sells the highly scented “oud perfume” popular in the Arabian Gulf. “Oud” itself is agar wood, with a highly infused resin. When burnt, the oud lets off a smoky smell and clothing is held over it to be saturated by the scent. It is also sold as oil and in perfume.
The Camel Company, located on the second floor in The Dubai Mall, has all sorts of cute, soft toys for children. Camel mugs, t-shirts, notepaper, and magnets are also available. The Camel Company also has an online store and four other locations in Dubai.
Souk al Bahar
If you go out of The Dubai Mall, walk across the bridge over the Burj Lake (man-made), then you’ll arrive at Souk al Bahar.
Yet another modern souk modeled on the old-fashioned market, Souk al Bahar has lots of shops and restaurants. The restaurants here are a good vantage point to watch the water fountain show in front of the Burj Khalifa.
Gallery One at Souk al Bahar is a good place to buy attractive art and prints. The designs you’ll find are representative of Dubai and the UAE.
Geometric designs, tasteful images of the Emirates, and Islamic calligraphy feature in the art. A lot of products are offered as smaller size prints, so they are easy to pack. Prices start at around 100 Dirhams (USD 30.00) and go up to 500 Dirhams (USD 135.00) for the small art pieces.
Meant to be delicious and healthy, camel chocolate is an edible souvenir from Dubai. Be sure not to leave it in the sun! It is sold at Candylicious stores.
A favorite food souvenir from Dubai is Bateel dates. These delicious dates come in attractive packaging and are excellent gifts. The dates are covered in chocolate and stuffed with nuts and fruit.
National Iranian Carpets
National Iranian Carpets — In the Middle East, a carpet is seen as an investment. Indeed, well-made and unique carpets increase in value over time. Do some research before carpet shopping, because quality carpets are expensive.
A good, mid-sized carpet will easily cost you 6000 to 8000 dirhams (USD 1600 – USD 2100). Persian carpets often feature medallions, and are named for the city or region where the design originates. A personal favorite is the Nien carpet in blue.
Here you’ll see an abundance of carpets stacked on top of each other. The shopkeeper will lay each one out. Make sure to ask about the weave, check the back of the carpet, and determine if your carpet is wool, silk, or mixed. Don’t accept the first price, but do be polite.
The Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative
The Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative — Would you like to buy handicraft that is made for a good cause? This charitable initiative sells handmade carpets, cushions, bags, and other textiles, with proceeds going to community development in Afghanistan.
If you buy from the FBMI, then you can be assured that the proceeds of your purchase will go to a good cause, and enrich the lives of women in impoverished communities. The handicraft is beautiful, and viewings at the Dubai shop are made by appointment.
All things considered, shopping for souvenirs in Dubai leaves one spoiled with choice. The best deals aren’t always found in a mall. For the adventurous, a trip to the Karama Souk or the Blue Souk can result in the discovery of a souvenir “treasure.” However, the more touristic souvenir shops (those in malls and resorts) are generally easier to access, albeit less atmospheric.