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!
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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