In the past, shopping took place in souks such as the vegetable souk or the spice souk. While some of these charming, traditional souks can still be found, perhaps due to the intense heat in the UAE in the summer, Dubai has developed some of the world’s most glamorous and varied shopping malls. Being tax free, prices are often very competitive.
As a new arrival in the UAE, you will probably want to buy the essentials for setting up house such as furniture and electronics, initially. But the other shopping delights will also be of interest in no time at all.
Shopping in Malls or Specialist Shops
The top malls in Dubai these days, in no particular order are: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates (MoE), Festival Centre, Ibn Battuta, Burjuman Center, Mirdif City Center and Deira City Center. Most items people shop for are available in malls as these large well-stocked malls sell electronics, furniture, and clothes. They also have at least one supermarket, movie theaters, cafés, restaurants, stationery and book shops. Dubai Mall has a giant aquarium freely available, while Mall of the Emirates is internationally famous for its indoor ski field. Which mall an individual favors depends on personal preference and the location, Ibn Battuta and Mirdif City Center being about as far apart as possible in Dubai. Dubai Mall is centrally situated and the others fill in the gaps around the city. Of course there are plenty of other smaller or more specialized malls.
In addition, there are areas where you can find certain types of shops situated as individual stores rather than in malls. For example, just off Sheikh Zayed Road, in the Al Quoz area, there is an area where there are a number of artist’s outlets and showrooms. This is also a good area to find shops selling old or antique type furniture from India and other parts of Asia and interior design or fabric shops. Feshwari is one popular fabric/interiors outlet to be found in this area.
Many specialist shops such as fabric shops and kitchen shops can be seen strung out along Sheik Zayed Road. Natuzzi, the well-known Italian furniture shop, has a big outlet visible from the road.
When it comes to furnishing your villa or apartment in Dubai the options are great. High-end shops like Harvey Nichols (MoE) have furniture sections where you can buy top quality household items including designer brands. For example, Ralph Lauren furniture and linens are available through Harvey Nichols. And, they stock other top brands such as Armani and Missoni.
Bloomingdale’s, situated in Dubai Mall, has an exclusive kitchenware, furniture and linens section separate from the clothing part of the store.
In addition, Pottery Barn, an American furniture and kitchen store, has outlets in both Dubai Mall and Mirdif City Center. Pottery Barn offers luxurious sized sofas, chairs and beds with all the accessories as well as kitchen and outdoor dining items for a casual but expensive look.
The One, on Jumeirah Beach Road, was the original western-style furniture outlet in the UAE and has been a favorite for expats for years.
Other styles of furniture, such as a rococo look or an Indian antiqued look, can be found around the city.
Home Center offers a less expensive option but still has interesting products and can be found at numerous locations around Dubai.
Of course, Ikea offers a large selection of household furniture and accessories at affordable prices. The Ikea store is in the Festival Center area and is very visible. There is plenty of parking and access to the mall from the store.
Appliance and electronics shops can be found in all the major malls. The electricity supply is the same as that of the UK and Europe, 220 volts. Electrical appliances come with a UK style big, three pin plug on the whole.
There are four main outlets all of which are well staffed, offer competitive prices and good service if you have kept your receipt.
Better Life would be the place to go for a wide variety of internationally known cookers, fridges and other large household appliances. They also sell water filters and do a good job of offering after sales service on these items.
Hardware and Outdoor Items
Ace Hardware is the major player in Dubai. They have an outlet in the Sheikh Zayed area. They also have a big store in Festival Center across the road from Ikea. They sell paint and other home handyman items, gardening needs, outdoor furniture and camping equipment.
Other sports shops can be found in the malls dotted around Dubai. There are specialist shops for diving equipment, too.
Clothing, Accessories and Jewelry
When it comes to personal shopping, the choice is enormous. Most well-known designer brands are represented in the main malls. For example, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Ralph Lauren, Valentino and Elie Saab to name a few are located in the fashion section of Dubai Mall. This part of the mall is quiet and elegant.
Other sections of the mall have more of a buzz to them, and there you can find shops like Top Shop, Zara, Banana Republic, H&M and Gap.
Shoe and accessory shops abound. Are you looking for Manolo Blahnick or Aldo? You will find the former in Dubai Mall and the latter in most of the larger malls. There are also shops with a distinct Middle Eastern or Asian flavor that sell clothing and shoes.
The Outlet Mall is a little way out of Dubai, but the best place to go if you want a bargain in the clothing or shoe line. They also have some furniture outlets.
Jewelry shops tend to be in the main malls where you can find the top retailers for watches and jewelry, shops like Patek Philippe, Bulgari and Cartier, offering their goods tax free.
Some outlets are in specialist malls such as the Gold and Diamond Park.
The Deira Gold Souk, near the fish market, is also a good place to buy jewelry. It is possible, even advisable, to bargain there unlike in the fixed price stores. Most of the time it is worth asking for “your best price” when buying jewels.
Overall, you can expect to have an enjoyable time tracking down the items you need and frequently experiencing the sense of getting a good deal.