Just a boat ride from Bur Dubai will transport you to the historic part of Dubai, in the region of Deira called Deira Old Souq, also famous as Deira Spice Souk.
Buzzing with everyday traders shouting for your attention, mix of bright and earthy colors, small alleys filled with divine aromas of the spices, this is not the Dubai image that’s marketed around the world. And if that’s not enough, you’ll be blinded by sights of lustrous gold in one of the parallel streets. Welcome to the Gold and Spice Souk of Dubai! Both a quintessential Dubai experience and an incredibly touristy activity that many will say you must do while here, visiting the gold and spice market dubai is an overwhelming experience. With sellers constantly calling out to passersby, trying to entice them to enter their storefront this can be an adventure all on its own.
But first, Bur Dubai
If you have already reached Downtown Dubai it would be recommended to explore Bur Dubai first and then head to Deira Spice Souk, where the Gold and Spice Souk is located.
Bur Dubai houses the famous Meena Bazaar and Al Fahidi Fort.
This is where you get a teaser to what the Old Dubai might be like. However, Old Dubai is the real deal in terms of authenticity and the old world charm.
It’s a far cry from what the chic malls of Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina are like. Move over the fancy French and Italian fashion brands that adorn the malls, find the traditional Indian and Pakistani textiles here. If you’ve been a fan of Bollywood dances like we are, you will love this place. From authentic Indian cuisine to shopping, it’s got it all. Ofcourse, don’t compare the ambience to Michelin Star Indian Restaurant that Dubai is filled with, but neither are you compromising on taste. Although referred to as ‘Mini India’ by some, Meena Bazaar is currently a mix of Indias, Pakistanis, Arabs, Africans, Afghanis to name a few.
Al Fahidi Fort
A quick browse through Meena Bazaar and head over to the Al Fahidi Fort. The oldest standing residential area of Dubai, a maze of old-worldly and charming wonders, the Bastakia Quarter or the Fahidi neighbourhood was first established at the end of the 19th century by rich textile and pearl merchants from Bastak, Iran. Holding the memories of an era that pre-dates the federation of the Emirates, Al Fahidi Historical District, also referred to as Al Bastakiya reminds you of a period saga.
The Al Fahidi Fort has quite an interesting history in terms of how the building elements played out. Built way back in the late 1700s, it was originally made with coral and shells that were cemented together with lime. In 1971, it was converted into the Dubai Museum. Don’t miss this old-time architectural marvel. This is not a carefully planned or modern architectural marvel like the Burj Khalifa Dubai or Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Mosque represented in most of UAE pictures, but this is where you acquaint yourself with the Dubai that was once a significant seafaring port.
Getting to Deira Spice Souk from Bur Dubai
You could take a taxi to reach the Spice and Gold Souk in Deira from Bur Dubai . But to make things a bit more interesting and we would recommend taking an abra (the Dubai water taxi) like the traders who do back and forth multiple times a day sometimes, from Dubai Old Souq Marine Transport Station/Port the to Deira Old Souq Marine Transport Station/Port. Sunset time is even better, as you sail away from sights of Al Fahidi Fort towards the Deira Spice Souk.
Deira, home to the Spice and Gold Souk
Deira, the area where the main souks are located, far predates the era of mega malls. Its also referred to as Deira Spice Souk. Imagine the opposite of concrete Downtown Dubai. Your necks won’t be perpetually titled up in the sky. Infact all your senses would be completely engaged observing the everyday mundane yet chaotic and engaging symphony of sights, sounds and smells.
Deira Spice Souk is in fact, the old-time commercial heart of Dubai, featuring winding, stall-filled streets, and a charm from forgotten times. With noises, smells and sights stunning you from every direction, all this set against the traditional Arabic architectural background, you feel as though you’ve entered the scenes of the Disney movie, Aladdin. Another example of stark contrast, that Dubai is famous would be the high-end, luxurious residential port destination – Mina Rashid – just a few minutes away from the Dubai Spice Souk. Being built by Emaar, way after old time traders made Dubai what it is today, it is a shining example of how luxurious beachside living could be in a cosmopolitan city.
The Dubai Spice Souk
The moment you step into the Dubai Spice Souk, you’ll be teleported to the kitchens of your grandmother or mother who loved cooking. When the homes would fill up with lovely aromas of saffron and cinnamon or other spices and herbs depending on which part of the world you come from. Add to this a visual blast of bright and earthy colors! A far cry from the nighttime neon colors of Downtown Dubai.
Imagine walking through pops of turmeric yellows, chilli red, star anise browns, deep red of saffrons from the Middle East, exotic dried flowers – a galaxy of sensory pleasure, that is the Spice Market Dubai!
A romantic, fragrant part of the larger market, the spice souks are filled with mounds of rainbow-colored herbs, along with kitchenware like utensils. From cayenne to chocolate covered dates, all your bases are covered in this quaint environment. There is also a great selection of nuts, oils and saffron available from the markets. If you are new to this world, indulge in conversations with the vendors who’ll educate you further or who could help you find what you really want. It can be overwhelming since some of them are quite pushy, but you can always choose to politely refuse if you are not convinced.
As you are wandering through the Dubai Spice Souk, you’ll gradually be led to the Dubai Gold Souk. Dubai is known for its gold trading, so why not give the Dubai Gold Souk too a shot? This is for the serious gold buyer as a bit of knowledge about the market price of gold helps. However, if you ain’t one of them, not to worry. So many different types of accessory designs in this precious metal under one roof, you won’t find such a scene often! Also, currently the Dubai Gold Souk is known to sell the gold cheaper than its neighboring areas.
Amazingly, in the 300 shops of the Gold Souk put together, it is estimated that there are over 10 tons of gold.
You’ll also see some primarily silver shops mixed in here, and some selling gorgeous accessories, authentic Arabian-style shoes and clothing. Also, between the Gold and Spice Souks, various other little markets dot Deira, including clothing stalls that offer some spectacularly sparkly clothing- a dose of culture, colour and glamour.
At the souks, it’s standard to haggle — the original price is rarely what a customer pays—and you’ll generally get a better deal if you ask for prices in the local AED currency. Almost all the vendors take credit card. However, it’s advisable to carry cash too. That said, it’s exciting when you find what feels like your treasure among the souks, your personal Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones like moment – the gold market is truly a mecca for buying gifts to return home with.