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Emirates TravelUAE guide / Duty Free Shopping

Duty Free shopping in the UAE

All of the UAE's international airports have duty free shops
If you are a fan of vacations as shopping destinations, then the United Arab Emirates is definitely someplace you should consider visiting. All of the UAE’s international airports have duty free shops, with the ones at Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International airport having achieved worldwide recognition for the best duty free shopping anywhere.

The most popular items that people shop for in the UAE’s duty free shops are articles of jewelry, particularly gold jewelry. Other popular duty free items include alcohol, leather goods, cameras, cigarettes, toys, cosmetics, and perfumes. Not only are the prices very competitive, the UAE is also well known for duty-free promotional events, with very valuable prizes like luxury cars and large amounts of cash.

The Dubai Duty Free shopping complex located in the new airport concourse is a destination unto itself. The shopping complex celebrated its 25th anniversary in December 2008. On the day of the 25th anniversary, Dubai Duty Free achieved the equivalent of US$20 million during the 24-hour period. Annual sales are now over US$1 billion.

The Abu Dhabi Duty Free shopping complex opened in 1986, and has undergone renovation in recent years. The complex’s open plan design features numerous boutiques representing famous brands. Clothing is a popular choice at Abu Dhabi Duty Free, but electronics, cameras, perfumes, and gold jewelry are also big draws.

The UAE is also home to countless souks, or traditional markets, located throughout the country. Shoppers are expected to haggle in these markets and bazaars, and typically, you can expect to negotiate prices down by about half. Before bartering in a souk, learn about the value denominations of the currency for two main reasons: you could end up spending way too much if you don’t have an idea of how the UAE currency trades with that of your home; and, you don’t want to waste your time or the shopkeeper’s time inadvertently haggling over a very tiny amount of money.

How effective your haggling is may depend upon how well dressed you are. Shopkeepers may be less inclined to offer a low price to a tourist with an expensive camera and watch on display. It is also important to keep in mind that haggling is an integral part of the shopping experience in souks, and that it is supposed to be enjoyable, or playful even. Rudeness or surliness makes it a bad experience for all involved.

Here are just a few of the many souks to be found in the UAE. Iranian Souk, Abu Dhabi near the Al Meena Carpet bazaar.

Menna Souk, Abu Dhabi on Al Meena Road – a place to shop for oriental carpets.

Central Market, Abu Dhabi in the center of downtown – currently being upgraded to an air conditioned bazaar.

Al Ain Souk in the city of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi on Zayed bin Sultan Street specializes in fresh produce and household items. Deira Old Souk and Spice Souk located creekside in Dubai is the largest and oldest in Dubai. This huge market is like another world, almost. You can find spices, toys, gold, and really almost anything you could imagine.

The Gold Souk on the Deira side of the creek in Dubai is a major tourist attraction. The gold jewelry selection is enormous, and most shops will design custom jewelry if asked or custom mount individual stones. All the jewelry is at least 18 carat gold, with most of it being 24 carat gold. Again, haggling is part of the experience, so be sure to check daily gold prices in a local newspaper first. Behind the main gold souk arcade run several alleys where you can find silver jewelry and souvenirs.

The Old Souk in Sharjah near Al Boorj Avenue will take you back in time. A long time ago, this souk was a meeting place for Bedouin traveling in from the desert to trade for rice and imported goods. This souk gives you a good idea of what the UAE was like before its oil and tourism boom.

The Blue Souk in Al Majaz, Sharjah, close to the Khalid Lagoon, was built in 1979. Its stunning architecture features wind towers that cool the buildings with sea breezes from the lagoon.

While the souks in the UAE are great for showing you a world in which time appears to stand still, the many modern shopping malls in the UAE show you up-to-the-minute shopping experiences as amazing as any in the world. In Dubai, the Mall of the Emirates on Sheikh Zayed Road has its own indoor ski area. Dubai Festival City is filled with designer outlets, and the Mall of Arabia under construction in Dubailand will be the largest in Dubai when finished. In Abu Dhabi, the Marina Mall and the Abu Dhabi Mall carry all the hottest retailers as well as clothing from international couture houses. An entire book could be written about the shopping available in the UAE. The glittering, modern malls and the traditional souks combine to give the traveler a sense that she is at a major world crossroads of trade, because she is!

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