Running for a month, Dubai's famous annual shopping festival is one of the highlights of the year - and it's getting closer. Here, we take a look at what you can expect from this colourful event, and offer a few tips on what to see and do.
All about Dubai Shopping Festival
Entering its 22nd year, Dubai Shopping Festival is the largest event of its kind in the Middle East. Given Dubai's world-class reputation for shopping, it's little surprise that the festival is such a popular success. So, what does it have to offer holidaymakers?
Of course, most people are drawn to it by the amazing deals that arrive in bulk in malls, souks and shops across the emirate. From designer stores to stallholders, everything from simple discounts to incredible prize draws are offered to shoppers, making the chance to browse for a bargain all but irresistible!
Perhaps one of the best things about Dubai Shopping Festival, however, is that while it is amazing for shoppers, it has plenty else to offer too. In addition to all the deals, discounts, freebies and prize draws, you'll find a host of live entertainment, from fashion shows to the incredible fireworks display that is, for many, the highlight of the entire event.
And of course, the city's top attractions are just as appealing during the festival as at any other time of year, and they provide a great way to break up days spent hitting the shops.
This year's festival will run from December 26th 2016 to January 28th 2017, and promises to be as spectacular as ever.
Dubai's best souks and malls
No matter what time of year you visit Dubai, no trip here is ever really complete without experiencing at least a few of Dubai's souks and malls. And it's best to visit at least one of each if you can (though you're bound to explore more during the shopping festival!), because they offer such different experiences of the emirate - a window into the contemporary and traditional sides of Dubai culture.
During the shopping festival, these destinations are even more exciting for visitors because of the possibility of getting even better deals than usual. Here are some of the top souks and malls to seek out:
The Textile Souk
Located in the historic trading centre of Bur Dubai, the Textile Souk is a great place to get a feel for traditional Dubai shopping. Stalls covered in colourful cloth make a real feast for the eyes, and as you meander through the souk you can see a vast selection of beautiful embroidered fabrics, raw silk, lace, buttons and more. If you can, take a traditional abra (water taxi) across Dubai Creek to get here, and visit in the early morning or evening.
The Gold Souk
Perhaps Dubai's most famous souk, the Gold Souk in Deira is an absolute must-visit. Stalls covered in gleaming gold, shimmering gems and ornate jewellery are visible at every turn and, what's more, as it is so strictly regulated by the government, you can be certain everything is genuine.
So spectacular are the displays here that there's a lot to be said for comming simply to enjoy the sights alone, but it is an excellent place to treat yourself to some jewellery too. Here, the gold is priced by solely by weight (as opposed to including other factors, such as the designer), which means it's possible to get a bargain at any time of year. Of course, during the festival, this becomes even more likely!
Not all souks have been part of Dubai's landscape for years. Souk Madinat is an example of a modern take on the traditional souk, and you'll find it in the chic Madinat Jumeirah resort. Best visited at night, when it's at its most scenic, this souk is ideal for a leisurely stroll browsing potential souvenirs before enjoying an indulgent meal at one of its cafes or restaurants.
Souk Al Bahar
Another example of a modern interpretation of a traditional souk, Souk Al Bahar is well located in Downtown Dubai next to Dubai Mall, with views of the waterfront, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain. It is home to more than 100 shops, selling everything from textiles and carpets to jewellery.
Another attraction well worth visiting during Dubai Shopping Festival is Global Village. Home to a medley of authentic shopping, rides, food stalls and entertainment, the Global Village is open from October to April each year and helps showcase the culture of some 65 countries. So, it's a great spot for some eclectic shopping. Expect to come across Indian cotton and silk, oils from Morocco, pots from Africa, and much more.
The Dubai Mall
Dubai is world-famous for its fantastic shopping centres, and most famous of them all is the Dubai Mall - the largest in the world. Located next to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, it's among the most exciting places to visit during the shopping festival, when its thousands of stores - including designer shops and high-street favourites - offer amazing discounts. Plus, there's plenty else to do here on the off chance you tire of shopping, including trying out the Olympic-sized ice rink and visiting Dubai Aquarium.
The Mall of the Emirates
The Mall of the Emirates is another of Dubai's most famous shopping destinations. Like Dubai Mall, it combines a colossal selection of stores with other attractions, such as rides and a cinema, so there's plenty to do here. It's an especially good destination if you're hoping to find some festival bargains in high-street fashion stores, as it's home to shops like Topshop and HandM.
Dubai Festival City Mall
Also celebrated for its size, Dubai Festival City Mall is home to more than 400 shops, and you'll find it next to Dubai Creek. It has a good selection of stores, including fashion, sportswear, electronics, speciality food and, for homeware lovers (or if you can't get enough of its famous Swedish meatballs) a huge IKEA store.
Your festival visit as a holiday
Whether you're a shopaholic or not, Dubai Shopping Festival is one of the best times to visit the emirate. Abuzz with people, activities and special events, it provides the perfect opportunity to see Dubai at its vibrant best. Plus, the fireworks displays, fashion shows and other events put on by the festival itself and the emirate's top attractions mean that this period has much more to offer travellers than great deals alone - though you're bound to pick up a few along the way!