Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Souks

�Souk� is the Arabic word for market, and Dubai is littered with them. They are a legacy of Dubai�s status as a thriving port, dating back to the 19th century, when traders and smugglers docked by the banks of the Creek to do business. The city�s souks remain beside the famous waterway.

The most acclaimed is the
Gold Souk, on the Deira side of town near the mouth of the Creek. It�s an impressive sight. Rows upon rows of windows filled with elaborate 24-carat gold necklaces, with throngs of Arab and Indian women clamouring for a better view.

This is no tourist trap. People come to stock up on the yellow metal, mainly from India, the world�s largest gold market. Dubai�s bullion market has tailed off since 1999, when India liberalised gold imports, but jewellery is still thriving.

The Spice Souk is the most popular among tourists, thanks to its picturesque narrow streets and pungent smells. But not all of Dubai�s souks are so appealing. The electronics souk in Bur Dubai is a network of shabby, 1970s shopping arcades, where Russian, Iranian and Sudanese �shopping tourists� come to stock up on cheap mobile phones and stereos. The fish souk in nearby Karama is simply a grotty indoor market full of fishmongers; ideal if you need to buy hammour, a local fish, or the magnificent Gulf prawns, but not one for the �must-see� visitors list.

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