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Wandering the Gold and Spice Souks of Deira, Dubai

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!

If this spot has your creative imagination fired up, check out my round-up of 40 places around the world for drawing inspiration — including this one.

Just a little gold necklace...

Just a little gold necklace…

Searching for travel that fits YOUR budget? I’ve done the search for you, so you can just click here for current Dubai hotel options, and here for Dubai flight deals. If you enjoyed this article, please consider using those links, as I receive a small commission to support this site, at no extra cost to you. Thanks, and happy travels!

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Wendy Awai-Dakroub

Friday 13th of March 2020

I swear I have the same picture of the spices from the souk in Dubai. It used to be my favorite place to hang out on the weekends (back in the 90's) when a cup of tea was just .30 cents. So much has changed... :) Thanks for the memories!

Lillie Marshall

Saturday 14th of March 2020

Oh wow! Things have changed -- except I've seen a photo from this spot on about ten different sites, too! That vendor really knows what the camera loves...

Shedi

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

An incredible spot to check around and window shop. Lots to view. Gold diamonds and other gold and silver and gemstones. Plenty of chaps requesting about watches & hand bags but be careful they maybe duplicates. Also plenty of street sellers of drinks & nuts best be sure you have some water with you.

Lillie Marshall

Wednesday 2nd of October 2019

Thanks for the tips!

Alice

Wednesday 7th of February 2018

Amazing post. The images are awesome. It was great reading the fabulous illustration with your pictures. Gold Souk and spice market in Deira are the places where we can see the local life. These are the original products of Dubai and gives you the Arabian feel.

Penny Sadler

Sunday 10th of April 2016

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

Lillie

Sunday 29th of May 2016

The gliz and perfumes!

Terry at Overnight New York

Monday 4th of April 2016

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

Lillie

Sunday 29th of May 2016

Juxtaposition is right.

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