Deira’s famous Gold Souk is usually the first stop for visitors to the district and attracts a cosmopolitan range of customers, from Western tourists to African traders buying up pieces for resale at home. There are over three hundred shops here, most of them lined up along the souk’s wooden-roofed main arcade, their windows packed with a staggering quantity of jewellery. It’s been estimated that there are usually around ten tonnes of gold in the souk at any one time, although even this is just one part of the city’s much larger overall gold trade which now contributes some US $70 billion to the city’s economy annually, representing no less than 25 percent of the world’s entire annual trade in gold.

The souk’s main attraction for shoppers is price: 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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