Dubai

Dubai thrives on trade, and so you'll not be short of somewhere to shop. 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 to spend up big.

Historically goods have come 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 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 over textiles, spices, and jewelry. But Dubai has also fallen in love with the air-conditioned mall, and these modern retail temples range over millions of square feet. Here there is an emphasis on luxury goods, with a capital "L." Residents are very brand-conscious and you'll find every label you'd also expect to see in Paris, New York, and Milan.

Although Dubai certainly appears to be shopping heaven, it's worthwhile keeping in mind the Latin phrase caveat emptor, or "buyer beware." Although prices are tax free, that doesn't necessarily mean 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. Shopping festivals can be filled with bargains, but often involve the retailers bringing out last years' stocks, so be informed if you are making an expensive purchase. Malls and major retailers are safe, but there are many sole traders in parts of Old Dubai around Karama, Satwa, and Bur Dubai, where fakes are rife. This extends over electronics, clothing, and accessories.

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