The Middle East is known for its atmospheric indoor markets stuffed with shiny, aromatic and exotic things. But it’s not just souks that you’ll find in Dubai – the city has seen a crop of outdoor markets blossom in the last few years, featuring everything from new designs and foodie trends to vintage fashion and home-made wares. Largely taking place in the mornings or at night to beat the desert heat, some of the markets are seasonal or move inside in the summer months when outdoor temperatures are uncomfortably hot, and most happen on the weekends (Friday and Saturday in the UAE).
For a refreshing alternative to shopping in Dubai’s dusty souks and glamorous malls, stop by one of these five open-air gems in parks and streets across the city to browse for bargains, tasty treats and one-off pieces.
Dubai Flea Market
This moveable feast sets up shop at a different location around town every weekend during Dubai’s ‘on’ season and less frequently during the summer months due to the soaring outdoor temperatures. Zabeel Night Flea Market, at Zabeel Park every first Friday of the month, is jam-packed with almost 200 stalls selling all manner of knick-knacks and second-hand wares. From 6pm until 10pm you can browse through a mound of pre-loved and used items to uncover treasures such as textiles, ceramics, books, clothes, accessories and antiques. Other market places include Al Nahda Pond Park and Al Barsha Pond Park, with the latest event info on the website (dubai-fleamarket.com).
Al fresco shopping has found a firm foothold at Ripe Market, which runs on weekends throughout the year. At both its Zabeel Park and Al Barsha Pond locations, you can expect to pick up everything from fresh produce and hand-made crafts to rustic home interiors and one-off pieces. With all kinds of prized goods such as Argan Oil, White Truffle Oil and Wagyu Beef, the offerings often move with the zeitgeist, but there’s a reliable crop of organic skincare, home-made condiments, leather handbags, unique jewellery, timeless fresh spices and herbs too. During the hot season from April – September the market moves indoors to the atrium of Times Square Centre on Saturdays. For more info, visit: ripeme.com
Arte, The Maker’s Market
A feast of creativity, Arte is all about individual, artisanal and home-made products. Running for more than a decade, the weekly themed market is one of Dubai’s longest-established al fresco bazaars and takes place on Fridays at different places around the city. It offers an outlet for the city’s artists and artisans to showcase and sell their creations whether that’s special cakes or stunning sculptures. You can pick up original artworks, pretty prints, hand-made soap, Vegan sweets, hand-woven dream-catchers and ornaments and much more. Go to arte.ae for the latest events.
The Farmer’s Market
International boutique bakery Baker & Spice has elevated its Dubai outpost with the creation of a farmer’s market that brings together a group of the country’s organic farmers to showcase their marvellous agricultural produce in the shadow of world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa. The Farmer’s Market on the Terrace graces Bay Avenue in Dubai’s Business Bay every weekend morning until 1pm during the cool season, selling local specialties such as sweet Hatta honey, as well as home-made jam, fresh herbs, fruit and veg available straight from local growers.
Another market that bustles into action in the winter months from November to March, the Garden Souq is housed in the leafy green surrounds of Dubai Garden Centre but it sells much more than just plants and flowers. The weekly Saturday market has a nice community vibe and hosts family activities and creative workshops alongside stalls selling local artisan goods, organic produce, delicious street food and snacks. Thrown into the mix are live cooking stations, live music, craft activities, yoga sessions, a kids’ play area and plenty of other fun and games.
During the cooler winter season in Dubai look out for the return of Market Outside the Box at Burj Park in January, which features a slew of independent stalls selling all kinds of products, live entertainment including music, poetry, dance and pop-up cinema, as well as dozens of food trucks conjuring up delicious morsels. As the summer sun dissipates, gorgeous pop-up market Pretty Chic should once again appear at The Westin Mina Seyahi for two Saturdays a month offering picnic hampers as well as accessories, fashion and interiors.
Organic restaurant The Sum of Us also has a history of hosting pop-up markets outside its premises at Burj Al Salam Tower in Downtown Dubai during the cool season from late October to April. Its Sunrise Market is well worth getting up for, offering free fitness classes, fresh pastries and baked treats as well as fragrant flowers and independent arts and crafts.
If vintage French fashion tickles your fancy, keep tabs on the latest pop-up dates from So Chic (sochic.ae) which hosts open-air sales across town including at Alserkal Avenue in the arts’ district. In fact, Alserkal Avenue has built a reputation for quirky pop-ups and markets.