Mar 262016
Rainbow colored spices in Dubai's Spice Souk.

Rainbow colored spices in Dubai’s Spice Souk.

During my 9-day trip to Dubai, pregnant and alone, I delighted in wandering the Gold and Spice Souks: Luscious markets located in the Deira neighborhood of Dubai. Walk with me now to take in the sights!

Gold chains dripping down the window.

Gold chains dripping down the window.

Deira is the old-time commercial heart of Dubai, featuring winding, stall-filled streets that harken back to the early years of the city before the mega-malls were built. (You know: those malls that are so big, a ski mountain could fit inside? These souks are from way before that.)

Covered stalls in the Gold Souk.

The airy covered walkway of the Gold Souk.

Repeatedly, traveler friends told me that Deira is a must-visit spot to taste the Dubai of days gone by. Indeed, the souks did not disappoint, and I recommend you explore them, too, should you find yourself in Dubai. Can you believe the necklace in this window display, below? Could that even be called a necklace, or is it actually a shirt? Maybe it’s a “Neck-Shirt” (Nechirt?) or “Shirt-Lace” (Shlace?). Hehe.

What a fabulous necklace!

What a fabulous necklace!

Deira is located north of the Dubai Creek: a saltwater river that formed the lifeline for the 19th century settlements in the area. The creek has helped catapult Dubai into a commercial force, as it’s provided both ports and marine bounties such as pearls. All that, and it’s pretty, too!

I crossed the Dubai Creek in a boat to get to the souks.

I crossed the Dubai Creek in a boat to get to the souks.

To cross from the southern part of Dubai, Bur Dubai, to Deria, you can do as I did and hop on one of the small boats (“abra”) which are a bargain at 1 dirham (25 cents, U.S. currency) a ride, and are used by locals and tourists alike.

Some colorful additions for your kitchen?

Some colorful additions for your home?

The day in October when I visited the souks, it was swelteringly hot, so I alternated strolling and photographing with dipping inside the air conditioned shops. I giggled, imagining bringing this giant gold shirt home to my husband to wear for our next date night out on the town. He’d love it, right?

I was very tempted to buy this for my husband.

I was tempted to buy this gold shirt for my husband.

Here’s a fun fact: In the 300 shops of the Gold Souk put together, it is estimated that there are over 10 tons of gold. That’s 20,000 pounds of the shiny stuff! It boggles the mind.

What a colorful spice mix!

Can you help me figure out what this colorful spice mix is?

So what about the Spice Souk? That fragrant market is just a few blocks from the Gold Souk, and features romantically narrow alleys and mounds of rainbow-colored herbs, along with kitchenwares like utensils.

One of the narrow walkways of the souks.

One of the narrow walkways of the souks.

Between the Gold and Spice Souks, various other little markets dot Deira, including clothing stalls that offer some spectacularly sparkly clothing. I rather wish I’d purchased the orange dress and gold headpiece shown below and showed up to teach my 7th graders in it, the week I returned from Dubai!

Outdoor clothing stalls near the Gold Souk.

Outdoor clothing stalls near the Gold Souk.

If you’re planning to tour the souks of Deira, be warned that the weather can sure get hot. When I visited in October, the air was so steamy that I had to periodically pop into the air conditioned stores to rest.

Which ornament would YOU choose?

Which ornament would YOU choose?

Luckily, many of the stores had their AC on high, providing fast relief. I was glad I had packed a big water bottle for the day’s journey, and advise you to do the same! I would also recommend dressing conservatively, as this is a more traditional area of town.

A mosque near the Spice Souk.

A mosque near the Spice Souk.

Now for the million dollar question (literally): Did I actually BUY anything at these alluring markets? In fact I did not. I’m terrible at haggling — the purchasing method of choice in these souks — and besides, just taking these epic photos made me happier than actually wearing a gold dress ever could!

What a party dress!

What a party dress!

Once my souk perusing was complete, I considered getting back to where I was staying by taking a boat across the creek again because it had been so much fun, but then spotted a sign for a Metro station nearby. Ah ha! An opportunity to sample Dubai’s brand new public transport system could not be passed up.

The waterfront just beyond the souks.

The waterfront just beyond the souks.

Several sweaty blocks later, I at last found the ultra-modern subway stop closest to the souks and hopped in, smiling with satisfaction from the memories of all that crazy gold and spice.

The futuristic subway by the Spice Souk.

Dubai knows how to make a futuristic subway station!

So what about you? Do the gold and spice souks of Dubai seem like places you’d like to wander? Would you be tempted to buy any of these items? Do share!

Just a little gold necklace...

Just a little gold necklace…

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  23 Responses to “Wandering the Gold and Spice Souks of Deira, Dubai”

  1. Beautiful photos. I’d love to have this experience. Sensory overload.

  2. I love the juxtaposition of the old world docks and the futuristic — and deep-looking subway. Fascinating place, Dubai.

  3. Lillie, I would be all over those gold necklaces! I actually like the headdress, the tangerine dress, the spices… shall I go on? Oh my goodness! I have Dubai high on my list and need to make that happen. Wonderful photos!!

  4. Hi.
    Thanks for this wonderful post and your experience you share with us. Dubai, i just went one time but really never see like you did :). You showed really beautifully.

    Thanks once again.

  5. A far cry from the gold and jewelry market in the back streets of Mumbai! Seriously, my eyes are popping out of my head!

  6. This brought back beautiful memories, thanks for sharing Lillie! I was at the gold and spice souks of Dubai in 2010, also a solo female traveling alone. I actually took the opportunity to purchase a fake engagement ring while I was there – was the best method I found to ward off the huge amount of unwanted attention I was receiving from men during my travels. Though being pregnant I think would have been a pretty good indicator that you were taken lol so that works too :D!!

  7. Love your photos, they brought back memories of the time we spent in Turkey, especially Istanbul with the spice market and the Grand Bazaar.
    Thank you for a different look at Dubai, it is a side of Dubai I have not read about before.

  8. I love your photos, they really illustrate your story! I’d be curious to know just how much one of those necklace/shirt hybrids cost! haha! This was a cool post, all ever see about Dubai are the malls and the sand dunes. I would actually enjoy checking out Deira. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. I loved roaming around the souks in Old Dubai and have many similar photos. It’s such a photogenic place! It’s nice to see the traditional after all the modern skyscrapers and mega malls in other parts of the city. And those necklaces! Necshirts and shlaces indeed!

  10. What wonderful colours! The spices look incredible – and I bet they smelt amazing too! I couldn’t really enjoy the Gold Souk on our visit – we had decided to walk there from our hotel and may have given myself a touch of heat stroke! But your photos are great and brought back what little I remember from that afternoon!

  11. The amount of dripping gold is outstanding. How crazy! The souk exploration looks fascinating. Love your pictures which bring the experience to life. Really intrigued now to check it out for myself.

  12. I enjoyed learning that the Deira is still a shopping option, contrary to my impression of sleek, modern and possibly impersonal? current day Dubai. That is a lot of gold to have on display! The workmanship and artistry in the merchandise is impressive.

  13. You’ve made it look so colorful! Is there really that much color all around, if so I may have to go just for the photography.

  14. I love the intensity of the colours in the first pic. I have never been to Dubai and am kinda fascinated by it.

  15. This place is so interesting. It reminds me a lot about the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The same kind of merchandise, Turkish delight, jewelry, and especially spices. Lots and lots of spices, each more flavored than the other.

  16. It is such a colourful destination for being out in the desert! I love a good market like this 🙂

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