Despite ongoing government clampdowns, Dubai‘s vibrant trade in counterfeit goods (bags, watches, sunglasses, pens, counterfeit DVDs and so on) is still going strong, and for many visitors the acquisition of a top-notch fake Chanel bag or Gucci watch at a fraction of the price of the real thing may be the shopping highlight of a visit to the city – although the brands and city authorities won’t thank you for saying so. Spend any amount of time in Karama Souk, the Gold Souk or around Al Fahidi Street in Bur Dubai and you’ll be repeatedly importuned with offers of “cheap copy watches” or “copy bags”.

Fakes are often on public display in shops, although they may be kept in backrooms away from prying official eyes. Many fakes are still relatively expensive – you’re unlikely to find bigger-ticket items like bags and watches for much under US$50, and plenty of items cost double that, although they’ll still be a lot cheaper than the real thing. Many fakes look pretty convincing at a casual glance (it’s been suggested some counterfeits are actually manufactured in the same factories that produce the genuine items and aren’t really fakes at all, but just seconds or “overmakes”), although longevity varies considerably; some fakes can fall to pieces within a fortnight, while others might last just as long as the real thing. It’s essential to check quality carefully – particularly stitching and zips – and you should also be prepared to shop around and bargain like crazy. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t get the price you want – you’ll have plenty of other offers.

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