Travelling around the world at one time or another you start noticing all modern malls are the same. The same shop windows brilliance, clothes and shoes brands, and the same goods on the shelves. As if you were staying in.

Arabic bazaar with local colours

What should an experienced shopper bored with modern malls do in Dubai?

There is a great idea – to visit in-the-air bazaars called Souk (سوق).

Souk is a traditional Arabic bazaar which has been an integral part of locals’ culture. It was not just a marketplace but a place to socialize: in the morning or under the starry sky strong Arabian coffee was served, goods were discussed and news swapped here.

Besides that it functioned as a warehouse – merchants’ cargo was stored here. No wonder that bazaars appeared near camel tracks crossing or near sea ports like in Dubai. In this latter case merchant ships unloaded their goods and then merchants sold them out on the nearest bazaar. Nothing has changed since then.

Just a while ago every Arabian city had its own bazaar with its hustle and bustle, hazardous bargain between buyers and merchants.

It is easy to imagine odorous gums from the East effusing in the warm and moist air, and a kind of pre-holiday fuss.

It is possible to experience the feeling of horse and buggy eras making a walk around the areas of Dubai: Bar Dubai or Deira. They are divided by Dubai Creek. Having paid a little fee you can cross it by an abra boat. Deira is famous for its Gold and Spice Souks, and Fish Souk where fresh-caught fish is brought every morning.

There are a lot of e-stores, homeware and clothes shops. But the real interest is attracted by spice, perfume and ouds, textile (true silk, cashmere), silverwork and brasswork (knives, Arabian coffee-pots and Aladdin's Magic Lamps) markets.

Unlike malls there are not any air-conditioners between merchants' rows and the sweat beads on your skin very quickly. But you’ve got a chance to enjoy bargain having humbugged a considerable discount out from a merchant. It must be kept in mind that street retail has its own rules to follow.

If you are aware that the thing offered is not needed and you are sure of not buying it, don’t pick the bargain up. After getting the lowest price you will still refuse to purchase it you will go down in the merchant and his circle’s estimation and such customer’s poor publicity spreads very quickly.

Souk Al Bahar

Souk is a very interesting and vivid way of retail. To keep this unique part of Arabic culture such old-type bazaars are often included into modern air-conditioned malls such as Dubai mall in Downtown Dubai which contains "Souk Al Bahar" ('market of the sailor’).

Jewelry, silk carpets, clothes, sweets and souvenirs are sold here.

The chocolate made with Al Nassma camel milk is worth trying in The Majlis Dubai café and if you like it you can get a couple of boxes of praline or a chocolate camel.

In Souk Al Bahar labyrinth there are about 30 restaurants and cafes. I would like to recommend two of them: Baker&Spice and La Postreria. Both of them are perfect for those who look for bread and circuses.

Everything is very tasty, flavorous and fresh in Baker&Spice bakery and you can enjoy sitting on the terrace offering spectacular views over Burj Khalifa and dancing fountains show.

La Postreria is of note and respectable restaurant with its menu feature - golden desserts.

The core value of the restaurant is a quiet and cozy terrace overlooking Burj Khalifa and partly a luxury Palace Hotel. The terrace is especially beautiful in the evening (there are few seats available after 8 pm even on summer weekdays).

The Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat Jumeirah luxury hotel complex hosts a very beautiful olde-worlde bazaar called Souk Madinat Jumeirah. This place portrays to the life the magic of Middle East.

Sometimes gloomy, sometimes bright, with narrow streets and high crowns, cozy shops and small workshops, pricy and not very restaurants where you can try national cuisines.

The Souk Khan Murjan

And at last, a wonderful The Souk Khan Murjan located in WAFI City Mall. The Souk Khan Murjan consists of four- block bazaar of the 14th century like in Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Syria.

There is a moving stairway near the main entrance of the mall. Having gone one floor downstairs you find yourself in a kind of parallel universe.

The air is filled with bukhoor – the precious Arabian fragrance enveloping and wrapping, getting through your skin, hair and clothes.

A clothier is hocus-pocusing picking up a huge pashmina easily flowing it through a finger-ring.

For a token fee you can be offered some original fragrance oil. Having visited a Lebanese shop you will know about panaces: some of them punch men up, others – get skin whiteness back…. Arabic spices, ouds, coffee and sweets, silver and brass, mirrors, furniture – there is a lot to see.

The Souk Khan Murjan can be reached differently: in front of the mall entrance there is a freestanding structure with Souk sign on it – over here.

The Souk Khan Murjan keeps in its depths two wonderful restaurants as least. The first one looks like an in-the-open-air court. It is very cozy and is entitled precisely Khan Murjan. The locals are fond of coming here and stay up late into the night smoking shisha. The other one is Cafe Alaturka.

Cafe Alaturka is located right above the first restaurant. Fresh and juicy Turkish sweets and infinitely tasty and flavoured tea are offered here. On top of that there is a white marble balcony overlooking the court. Carved tabletops, coloured glasses, mosaic, coloured ceiling lights and free Wi-Fi:)

P.S. In mind is to get to Abu Dhabi with its traditional bazaars. The most famous ones are The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri и The Souk at Central Market.

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  • Cropping me
    Author and photographerVictoria Lazareva
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