Perched on the Persian Gulf of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is an incredible city for a holiday. It’s been a port city for more than a century and with nicknames like “The City of Gold” and “City of Merchants,” you’ll want to prepare beforehand to do some shopping for souvenirs, gifts, and things for yourself as well.
First, where are the best places to shop? The Dubai Mall is a good place to start. After all, what shopaholic can resist the world’s second-largest mall? There are over 1,200 shops, and air-conditioning will give you respite from the heat if visiting in summer. You’ll definitely want to check out the traditional souks (bazaars.) The souks are divided into sections or categories. There’s the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk, the Textile Souk, and more.
For the best prices, avoid the Dubai souvenir shops and hit the discount stores instead. For high-end purchases, the Souk Madinat Jumeirah is the place to go. Plus the striking architecture and scenery will make shopping more pleasurable. The Dubai Duty Free is a good place to pick up a few last-minute items, but since it’s in the airport, expect to pay a little more.
Now that you know where to shop, here are the souvenirs from Dubai to look for.
Dubai has long been associated with luxury and is an excellent place to shop if you’re looking to invest or expand your collection of gold jewelry. Gold is arguably cheaper in Dubai than any other place in the world. Visit the Gold Souk to browse and haggle for the best prices. You’ll find gold necklaces, bangles, and other pieces inspired by Arabian and Indian designs.
If faux gold better suits your budget, a traditional headpiece makes an excellent Dubai souvenir. Rather than being made of real gold, the headpieces are decorative ornaments. The “gold” is fashioned into geometric patterns that fit on the head with gold chains that dangle down over your hair.
Camels are a symbol of the Arabian desert of which five percent comprises Dubai’s total land area. Amuse your friends back home with chocolate made from camel’s milk, a homegrown delicacy in Dubai. Everybody loves chocolate, and this Dubai souvenir is sure to be a conversation starter about your trip.
Camel milk chocolate is manufactured by two companies, Al Nassma and Domori. The chocolate comes in several varieties including macadamia, whole milk, date, and Arabian spiced. The chocolate is available in bars or camel shapes. Look for it at the Al Nassam kiosks at the Dubai Mall at Duty Free shops.
The Middle East is known around the world for its delicious dates. They’re also an important part of the culture because of their religious significance. Dates are the first thing eaten by Muslims when breaking fast. They boost energy instantly and are a rich source of iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Although fruits and vegetables can’t be brought over an international border, dried fruits are the exception. However, some countries limit the amount you can bring so check beforehand. They make nice, inexpensive gifts, and they last practically forever so you can use them in your holiday baking. They’re available in several varieties including Sokari, Medjool, Khidri, and Kholas.
You’ll probably notice that the shops in Dubai and the Textile Souk are jam-packed with colorful scarves and shawls in diverse patterns. The pashmina shawl is very popular with the local women, and they buy lots of them to go with different outfits. They can be a pricey souvenir but make wonderful gifts for the women in your life.
A genuine pashmina shawl is made of fine cashmere wool from the hair of South Asian goats and is usually blended with 30 percent silk for softness. To avoid being cheated by a knockoff, try pulling the entire shawl through a ring. If it doesn’t pass through easily, it’s likely made of viscose, a type of rayon fabric.
For a really unique Dubai souvenir, pick up a pair or two of the country’s traditional slippers. They’ll remind you of the ones Aladdin wore in the movies. Wear a pair back home, and your friends will know you’ve been somewhere far away and exotic. Traditional slippers for men have curly toes. The ones for women are flat-tipped and have varying heel heights. They come in a multitude of dazzling colors and often have intricate threadwork, beads, and baubles.
Arabic spices are famous around the world for creating flavorful dishes with wonderful aromas. Be sure to visit the Spice Souk where you can buy spices that are impossible to find anywhere else including the rest of the UAE. Pick up some for yourself and the cooks in your life and bring the flavors of Dubai home. They have strong aromas, so wrap them well and pack them in your check-in luggage to avoid any hassles. Only buy the ones you can’t find back home and purchase them in small quantities.
Ceramic pieces from Turkey and Iran can easily be found in souvenir shops all around Dubai. They are very popular with tourists although they have foreign origins. Bowls, plates, platters, and coasters are decorated with elaborate designs that reflect the traditional art of both countries.
Pearls from Dubai make an excellent souvenir. Not only do they represent luxury, they also have historic significance. Before the discovery of oil in the 1960s, pearl diving was a major industry. Pearls from the UAE are still recognized internationally and used in high-end jewelry brands such as Cartier. Pearls aren’t cheap souvenirs and can only be found in places such as the Dubai Mall and the Gold Souk.
Sand art is a unique Dubai souvenir to remind you that you traveled to a desert region. The sand art usually depicts camels and other desert features. You can also have one custom-made with your name (or a friend’s) written in sand. Artisans create sand art by using special tools to level the colored sand into a bottle with precision to get the desired look. Look for sand art at the Dubai Souk, the Dubai Mall, and in high-end shops.
If you wander around Dubai for a day or two, you’ll probably get lured into a Shisha Lounge at some point. Bring home the memory of the wonderful aroma and buy a hooka. If you don’t know yet, a hooka is a type of pipe used to smoke a flavorful substance called shisha. The word shisha also refers to the practice of smoking using hookah. You’ll find small hookahs with different shisha flavors such as strawberry, mint, and cinnamon at the Dubai Souk. If you don’t want a real one, mini hookahs are available as decoration and conversation pieces.
The traditional incense called Bakhoor is another aroma to remind you of Dubai. It’s made of natural ingredients such as sandalwood, saffron, Arabic gum, and various oils. You can get Bakhoor in different forms including powder or wood chips soaked in fragrance. It’s an excellent natural alternative to air fresheners and perfumes.
To burn your Bakhoor back home, purchase a Mabkharah, an object with a pit inside used to burn the incense. They come in various shapes and can be used for decoration when the Bakhoor is all gone.
Both of these Dubai souvenirs are typically inexpensive and can be found in most gift shops.
If you are a coffee lover or know someone who is you simply can’t leave Dubai without trying Qahwah, the traditional coffee of Arabia, and purchasing some to take back home. It’s also a symbol of Arabian hospitality since along with dates, it’s the first thing offered to guests. Look for Qahwah at the Dubai Spice Souk.
Along with your Qahwah purchase, consider an authentic Qahwah serving set. The Dallah is a tall coffee pot with a long spout. You can purchase one separately, but why not include a dozen tiny cups called Finjan? You can have friends over and serve Qahwah and dates while pouring over all of your pics and videos from Dubai.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.