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Shopping for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: June 2014

Dubai has been called “the shopping capital of the Middle East”.  It has many well-known shopping centres such as the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates.

The Dubai Mall can be described as huge; its total business area covers over 1.12million square meters. It has a retail area of 502,000 square meters with more than 1,200 shops and 120 restaurants.  It was reported that in 2012, the Dubai Mall attracted more than 65 million visitors, while the whole of the UAE only has a population of 9.2million. You can find further information on its website, https://www.thedubaimall.com/.

The Mall of the Emirates, is the world’s first shopping resort.  It has around 470 shops within an area of 220,000 square meters, many selling widely recognised top brands. There are plenty  of restaurants and cafes for when you need a break from shopping. The Mall of the Emirates is also home to an indoor ski centre covered with real snow in an area of 22,500 square metres.  You can find further information on its website here https://www.malloftheemirates.com/.

Dubai is also a great place to buy gold. The Gold Souk, located on the Khalid Bin Waleed Road, is a must see. It is a maze of streets lined with hundreds of small jewellery shops selling gold by weight rather than by each item. The price of gold that day is displayed on screens around the souk but the final price is open to negotiation. As many stores sell similar items, it is best to check the prices against each other. It is common place to haggle the price and you may receive up to 50% off the original price. There are many street vendors outside of the Gold Souk selling fake goods, it is recommended to not purchase these items.

If you interested in international businesses, the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) is worth visiting. DWTC is the gate way to the Middle East market which generates about USD200billion per year.  For more information: https://www.dwtc.com/

Many other Emirates are great places to shop, such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Here many new shopping malls are being established that offer a good range of services.  For example the Marina Mall and the Mushrif Mall in Abu Dhabi and the Sahara Centre, Sharjah Mega Mall and Sharjah City Centre in Sharjah.

There are also many markets (souks) in the UAE. Spice souks are commonly seen where you can try exotic spices such as Bezar, Cumin, Coriander, Saffron and Chilli powder.  You can also find ancient or modern carpets in many of the carpet souks in UEA, although beware of the many knock off carpets being sold here. The Blue Souk in Sharjah has a great selection of carpets from Iran, Pakistan and India.


Shopping hours

Typical opening hours for shops in the day are between 9am to 1pm and from 4pm to 9pm. Many large supermarkets open 24hours a day.  

The UAE is a muslin country so there are many public holidays where you may not be able to  shop as usual, especially to purchase alcohol and other certain goods. Its festivals are timed according to the Islamic calendar. For further information of festival dates: https://www.uaeinteract.com/travel/holidays.asp.



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