SOUQS AND SHOPPING AREAS

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ABU DHABI

Many of the carpets on offer at the bustling Carpet Souk near Mina Zayed are machine-made copies. But a determined search should uncover handmade goods and tribal handcrafted designs.

The Free Zone Market near the Dhow Harbour in Al Mina stocks a plethora of knick-knacks, pottery and other goods.

Also near the Dhow Harbour, the Fish Market provides a very enjoyable traditional shopping experience for early risers. The wholesale market starts trading around 4.30 a.m. and closes at 6.30 a.m. Traders sell the freshest fare in bulk for the first two hours of trading before moving on to smaller quantities after 6.30 a.m. as the daily market prepares to open.

Just before the Dhow Harbour and the Free Zone Market, Al Mina Vegetable Market stocks a wide range of local and imported fresh produce. This is also best visited early in the morning.

Central Market in the central Markaziyah area of Abu Dhabi is a very striking example of contemporary Islamic architecture. A reinterpretation rather than reconstruction of the original souq, this beautifully designed air-conditioned bazaar has many little nooks, crannies, rooftop areas and shaded courtyards to explore and enjoy.

The modern Gold Souk beside Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre houses numerous well-stocked shops specialising in jewellery made from gold and precious stones.

On the waterfront between two bridges connecting Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland, Qaryat Al Beri Souk is a delightful recreated Arabian souk with a Venetian theme. It also has a spectacular view of Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

DUBAI

Deira Old Souq & Spice Souq by the Creek is a traders' paradise where everything from plastic toys to spices are piled high and tiny stores are crammed with the useless and the much sought after. Meander through the fragrance-filled alleyways towards the nearby Gold Souq.

The Gold Souq is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and it is easy to understand why. Covered alleyways are lined with small shops displaying tray after tray of ornate gold jewellery and precious stones.

Bur Dubai Souq near Dubai Museum is also known as the Textile Souq. Souvenirs and knick-knacks are on sale here, but the area is best know for its stunning array of fabrics.

Karama Souq in Bur Dubai is not technically a souq. This tucked away treasure trove of bargains is housed in two 'modern' buildings.

The Fruit and Vegetable Market near the Deira end of Shindagha Tunnel houses the largest array of fresh produce in Dubai.

Nearby is the Fish Market stocked with local and imported fish and seafood.

Recreating the traditional souq architecture of narrow stone corridors, high archways and subdued lighting, Souk Al Bahar is an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and cafés along the waterfront in ‘Downtown Dubai’ (beside Dubai Mall).

The meandering alleyways, heavy wooden doors and curving arches of Souk Madinat Jumeirah replicate ancient Arabian bazaars. Windtowers, palm-trees and winding canals add to the overall effect, whilst retail outlets, restaurants, bars and cafés provide endless shopping, dining and entertainment.

SHARJAH

Sympathetically renovated, Souq al-Arsah or the Old Souq near Al Boorj Avenue retains its traditional charm. In times gone by the souq was a meeting place for bedouin who travelled from the desert to trade charcoal for rice and goods imported from Iran and India.

The most famous souq in Sharjah, the Blue Souk, is also known as the New Souq or Central Market. Built in 1979, this is one of the most striking buildings in the emirate. A double row of vaulted, blue tiled structures are linked by bridges and cooled by windtowers that catch sea breezes from the nearby lagoon.

A variety of retail outlets fill the ground floor and the upper storey is crammed with carpet shops selling silk and wool masterpieces from Iran, Pakistan and India. Bridges joining the upper floor house numerous silver jewellery shops.


Sharjah's Gold Centre is located at the intersection of Al Qasimi and Al Wahda Streets. Built in traditional Islamic style, it has become a local shopping landmark.

Housed in another striking building, the central gold dome of Al Majarrah Souq rises majestically above the Creek’s skyline. Some 50 shops sell handicrafts, perfumes, textiles and shoes.


The Fish Souq, close to the Blue Souq  provides an exciting traditional shopping experience. The daily catch comes in all shapes and sizes.

In the Fruit and Vegetable Souq, opposite the Fish Souq, traders perch precariously atop their goods and greet every potential purchaser as a long lost friend.

The Plant and Pot Souq is close to the fruit and vegetable souq: bouganvillea, oleanders, hibiscus and periwinkles tumble in abundance from pots and trellises.

Historically, the Iranian Bazaar along the Creek traded in clothes and gold, but today the goods on offer are mostly spices, herbs and textiles.

The Friday Market lies between Dhaid and Masafi on the road to Fujairah. Originally, as the name suggests, a Friday market for local traders, the roadside market is now a daily occurrence and has grown into a favourite stopping place for tourists visiting the east coast. Open-air stalls sell carpets, pottery, plants, fruit and vegetables and a confusing array of household goods and inflatable toys.

Sharjah’s only east coast town boasts one of the prettiest souqs in the country. Overlooking the Gulf of Oman, the traditional arched Khor Fakkan Souq, topped by windtowers, is the town’s best known landmark.Small outlets sell a mixture of textiles and household goods.


AJMAN

 

Ajman Souq on Ra’s al-Khaimah Road is
a small purpose-built souq filled with individual outlets.

RA'S AL-KHAIMAH


The Souq in Ra's al Khaimah is essentially two adjoining streets. Outlets sell mainly traditional Arabic and Pakistani clothes, fabric and household goods.

FUJAIRAH


The Souq in Fujairah town centre is along traditional lines trading ineverything from textiles to household goods. Most fresh produce is locally grown on nearby farms.

Split between Oman, Sharjah and Fujairah, the east coast town of Dibba is uniquely cultural and traditional. Opening hours at Dibba Fish Market on the shore are more than a little erratic with stalls opening when fishermen arrive with the day’s catch and closing when everything is sold. Salted fish is available all day.


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