Dubai is a mecca of shopping, and if it's sheer volume that gets you to part with your dollars there are few spots on earth that can beat it. With tax-free prices and billions of dollars' worth of giveaways for customers, the emirate has gained a reputation as the place for bargains.
Dubai produces next to no products, but it never mattered because historically goods came flooding in from
around the Gulf, the Indian subcontinent, and the horn of Africa. Now they stream in from around the globe, as designers hunger to establish a presence in this red-hot town.
The top buys start with gold and precious stones—Dubai is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy quality jewelry. It's also the largest marketplace, outside of Iran, for handmade Persian rugs, and prices are much more affordable than in the United States and Europe. Indian and Chinese silks and satins occupy an important sector of the market, while spices and incense are must-buy items. The city has what might be the best range of up-market goods outside of New York Fashion Week. It's rare to find such a saturation of French, Italian, American, and British designers together in one city.
The alleyways of the old downtown souks still have the bustling atmosphere of a traditional Arab trading port, and you can get down to some serious haggling here. But Dubai has fallen in love with the air-conditioned mall, and these modern retail temples range over millions of square feet.
Although Dubai certainly appears to be shopping heaven, it's worthwhile keeping in mind the Latin phrase caveat emptor, or "buyer beware." Large electronics producers use Dubai to offload last year's stock, so many computers, electronics, and cameras are not current models. And even though the shopping is tax free, it doesn't necessarily mean that prices for international goods will be cheaper than in your hometown. Numerous shoppers come to Dubai from countries where luxury goods and designer labels are hard to get, so price is less important than availability. If getting a bargain is the main reason for traveling to Dubai, make sure to research prices of similar goods at home before you come.
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