Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Gold Souq

Top choice in Deira

All that glitters is gold (and occasionally silver) along this covered arcade where dozens of shops overflow with every kind of jewelry imaginable, from delicate pearl earrings to lavish golden wedding necklaces. Simply watching the goings-on is a treat. Settle down on a bench and take in the lively street theater of hard-working Afghan men dragging heavy carts of goods, African women in colorful kaftans and local women out on a shopping spree. The best time to visit is in the bustling evenings. Mornings are busy with tour groups, and the afternoons are sleepy.

Gold has been big business in Dubai since the 1940s. Today, the emirate is one of the world's largest gold markets, accounting for roughly 25% of the global trade.

Dubai's Gold Souq at night
The Gold Souq comes alive in the evenings © Terry Carter / Lonely Planet

Central Arcade

Dozens of jewelry shops spilling over with gold, diamonds, pearls, silver and platinum line the souq's car-free, wooden-latticed central axis. From stud earrings to intricate wedding necklaces, it's a dazzling display and a must-see, even if you're not part of the bling brigade. Most shops are run by Indian merchants, while customers are mostly Indian or Arab, which helps explain the deep yellow tint of the gold and the often extremely elaborate designs, as is preferred in those parts of the world.

Record-breaking gold ring

Dubai being the capital of superlatives, the Gold Souq is naturally home to a record-breaking piece of jewelry. Stop at Kanz Jewellers just past the main souq entrance (off Old Baladiya St) to snap a selfie with the world's largest and heaviest gold ring, as certified by Guinness World Records. Called the Najmat Taiba (Star of Taiba), the 21-karat beauty weighs in at nearly 140 pounds (64kg) and is studded with 11 pounds (5.1kg) of diamonds and precious stones. It is worth a hefty US$3 million.

Gold on display at Dubai's Gold Souq market
Dubai's Gold Souq has many intricate jewelry designs on display © Kritsana Laroque / Shutterstock

What to look for when buying at Dubai's Gold Souq

There's no need to worry about fakes at the Gold Souq (unless you're in the market for a knock-off Rolex watch or Prada bag from one of the touts trying to tempt you). The quality of gold is regulated by the Dubai government, so you can be fairly confident that the piece of jewelry you've got your eye on is genuine.

Price is determined by two factors: weight based on the official daily international rate and the artistry of the item. The latest gold rates are posted throughout the souq and online. Most pieces for sale here are 14 or 18 karat. If you don’t see anything you like, don’t panic. Most shops will make something to your own design.

Haggling is expected, and vendors build in price buffers accordingly. Since the price of gold itself is fixed, focus on the intricacy of the artisanship as a point of discussion. Buying more than one item should also net you a discount, as does paying in cash, though credit cards are almost always accepted. Sharp bargaining skills usually make merchants drop the initial asking price by 20% to 30%. Don’t rush! Remember, you don’t have to make a decision on the spot. Compare carefully before you buy and be prepared to haggle.

Where to stay near the Gold Souq

Dubai's Gold Souq is in the Deira neighborhood, which is close to the airport and therefore popular with visitors on stopovers. There are plenty of older, smaller, budget places in and around the souqs, although some can be quite – how shall we say? – shady. Nicer properties can be found along the Creek as far south as Dubai Festival City.

Where to eat near the Gold Souq

A classic pit stop in this area is Ashwaq Cafeteria, whose shawarma rocks the palate. Wash it down with a freshly squeezed fruit juice.

How to get to the Gold Souq

Take the Dubai Metro to Al Ras, or ride an abra (a traditional boat) to Deira Old Souk abra station.

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