The souk’s main attraction is its prices: the gold available here is among the cheapest in the world, and massive competition keeps prices keen. The jewellery on offer ranges from ornate Arabian creations to elegantly restrained pieces aimed at European visitors. Particularly appealing are the traditional Emirati bracelets, fashioned from solid gold (and often exquisitely embellished with white-gold decoration) and hung in long lines in shop windows; these were traditionally used for dowries, as were the heavier and more ornate necklaces also on display. There are also plenty of places selling precious stones, including diamonds and a range of other gems.
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Shopping in the Gold Souk
Shopping in the Gold Souk
The gold industry in Dubai is carefully regulated, so there’s no danger of being ripped off with substandard or fake goods, but there are still a few useful basic things to know. First, gold jewellery is sold by weight (the quality and detail of the decoration and workmanship, however elaborate, isn’t usually factored into the price). Second, the price of gold is fixed in all shops citywide (the daily price is displayed on video screens at either end of the souk; the exact figure fluctuates daily depending on the international price of gold). Therefore, if you ask how much a piece of jewellery is, it will first be weighed, and the cost then calculated according to the day’s gold price.
Once you’ve established this basic price, it’s time to start bargaining. A request for “best price” or “small discount” should yield an immediate discount of around 20–25 percent over the basic price; you may be able to lower the price still further depending on how canny you are and how desperate the shop staff are for a sale. As ever, it pays to shop around and compare prices; tell the shop you’re in that you’ve found a better deal elsewhere, if necessary. If you’re buying multiple items, press for further discounts.
If you can’t find what you want in the Gold Souk, try one of the sizeable malls – Gold Land, The Gold Center and Gold House – stuffed full of gold and jewellery shops lined up along Al Khaleej Road opposite the Gold Souk bus station, a short distance to the north.
Shopping for precious stones is more complicated, and it pays to do some research before leaving home. Diamonds are a particularly good buy in Dubai, often selling at up to half the price they would retail for in the West. If you’re buying diamonds, it’s also well worth visiting the excellent Gold and Diamond Park in southern Jumeirah. The area around the Gold Souk is also one of the major centres of Dubai’s flourishing trade in designer fakes.