The sandstorm that decided to linger around the UAE caused us to alter our plans again. Instead of the desert safari we decided to head over to the infamous Gold and Spice Souks. A souk is a traditional market. There are tons of deals to be made and things to see at a souk.
The Gold and Spice Souks are located in Deira, Dubai’s commercial business area. A quick taxi ride from Downtown Dubai left us in a very crowded area. People everywhere! The taxi driver instructed us to go through the revolving doors to get into the souk area. Upon going through the doors we were inside a small jewelry area. We walked a bit and found ourselves outside.
This area of Dubai is very different then the rest. It looks older and rundown. Dubai is a very safe place, but that isn’t a place I would want to be late at night, based off the way it looks. There is an open walkway with tons of jewelry stores and benches to sit down. As you walk down the main corridor there are narrow alleyways. Down these narrow paths are tons of stores, some are open air and some are inclosed.
The moment we stepped foot into the area we were approached left and right by several people. They were trying to get us to come to their store. It was constant and non stop. The people were very friendly, especially since they want you to purchase goods from them. So if people pressuring you to visit their store isn’t up your alley, I wouldn’t recommend these souks.
Gold and Spices are not the only things you can buy in the souks. They also sell clothing, souvenirs, shoes, watches, bags, and more. The designer watches and bags were not real, but people were trying them on nonetheless. Looking at them you can’t tell from a glance they are fake. If you touch it or you know fakes from the real you will certainly notice.
A local informed us that the best deals can be found towards the interior of the souks. So you need to go towards the middle and not stay on the outskirts. A skill set that you certainly need when going there is the art of haggling. Don’t ever go with the price they give you! If they don’t want to work with you then don’t be afraid to walk away. They will stop you and try to work with you because you can always go to the next place and get the same exact thing.
Also have a converter on your phone. I used the Globe Convert App. Every time they would give me a price, I would convert it to see if I was comfortable with the price. It really helped a lot. You can get caught up when you are seeing prices in AED.
Another important tip is what you wear. There are a lot of people from many different traditional backgrounds. Not to mention you are surrounded by a lot of men. I had on a tank top, but I also used a button up shirt as a jacket. It became pretty humid and I briefly took it off. One of the stores I went into a gentleman kept trying to get me to purchase a shirt by holding them up to me.
The first time he tried his hand seemed to go on my skin right above my breast and I thought maybe that was a mistake, until he did it again. I left very quickly and put my button down back on immediately. Needless to stay I lost my interest in being in the souks after that. I also later found out that it isn’t typically in their culture to even touch your hand. You do get some random creeps who will and they can be arrested and deported if you report them.
We did manage to get some souvenirs and other nice items from the souks. We did not buy any gold, but did get the opportunity to look at some things. The price of gold changes and there are signs that tell you how much it costs so you can’t be duped. Some places also take credit/debit cards, but you get charged an extra 5%.
We took a seat on one of the benches and watched some tours go by. I saw a lot of people standing by a window. When I went to see what they were looking at I realized it was a huge ring! In fact it was the world’s heaviest gold ring. Not too surprised as we were in Dubai. Walking a little more we ended up in the spice souk which is laid out in the same fashion as the gold souk.
We went into one store where the gentleman had us smell frankincense and myrrh. He also pulled out saffron, vanilla, and more. He had some colorful chocolate rock candy that he let us try. It was really good and I ended up haggling with him and buying some.
We then noticed right across the street were boats (abras), so we headed over there. We took the abra across the creek for 1AED. We didn’t explore too much because we had reservations at Ewaan, so we stopped at store, bought a ton of candy and other goodies and paid 1AED to head back on the abra to catch a taxi from there.
Overall it was a lot of fun, but a bit stressful with the haggling and everyone talking to you every second. The ride across the creek was a fun experience.
Have you ever been to a souk? What was your experience like?