If you love the Dubai Flea Market (www.dubai-fleamarket.com), can’t get enough of Marina Market (www.marinamarket.ae) and fancy a good old haggle then prepare for a similar bric-a-brac feast. Souk Al Bastakiya is now in action, and it’s putting Dubai’s outdoor shopping scene firmly on the map. While it’s not quite London’s Spitalfields Market (there’s a distinct lack of grubbiness), the live jazz music, Dubai Lime musical entertain-ment, free valet service and kiddies’ play area more than make up for any lack of grit. And that’s not forgetting a wealth of quirky stores selling everything and anything.
So what’s the score? Souk Al Bastakiya is a weekly fixture (open every Saturday at 10am until sunset) where more than 50 stalls set up and vie for your attention (and cash) in the glorious outdoors.
The line-up includes revered boutique Chocolate & Pickles, up-and-coming fashion duo Seven Minutes – they recently participated in S*uce’s Stars in Their Eyes fashion exhibition – and cool kids’ label Baby Bling.
For anyone who likes a good old read, the Al Mutanabbi Bookshop is worth a peruse, while Frenzy Gifts, Al Rahma Handicrafts, Chuk Palu Rug, Kahn Saboon and Khalil Fazal Antiques are all great for picking up random knick knacks for house and home.
There’s also a Labneh wa Zaatar café, art exhibits from The Jam Jar gallery and an on-site spa (Queen Bee). ‘I’m doing this first to help my country buck up tourism and second as a business venture,’ says Hala Al Gergawi, its owner. Hear, hear, we say. The souk is open every Saturday from 10am until sunset.
2. S*uce Gifts at XVA
If you haven’t heard of S*uce at The Village Mall, then you’ve had your head in the sand, for it’s a boutique that prides itself on gathering the finest – and most unique – threads in town under one pretty-as-pink umbrella. Decor is kitsch, designers are a mix of established (Twenty8Twelve) and local (Sugar Vintage) and it’s dubbed a ‘big girl’s dressing-up box’ by Dubai’s fashion elite.
So when news reached us that S*uce was opening up a gift store in Bastakiya’s XVA Gallery it was lollipops all round. Nestled inside this cool art space S*uce Gifts is a tiny nook dedicated to hip and happening trinkets. There’s Susan Hanover bangles, Bil Arabi rings, Essa accessories, Dubai-inspired souvenirs and all manner of covetable wares that’ll have you wondering how you ever celebrated a birthday without it. If it’s a quick pick-me-up you’re after, why not pop into the adjacent XVA Café afterwards for a vat of earthy thyme tea? Call 04 353 5383 for more info
3. Majlis Gallery
If it’s a slice of canvas you’re after, then a meander to The Majlis Gallery should be on the cards. While it’s not up there with New York’s Museum of Modern Art (it’s more rustic than minimalist), there’s something refreshingly accessible about this art space. Everything from the humble wooden furniture to the moody, sensual art work is for sale.
Endearingly, the gallery grew out of a love affair between an expat and a house. Alison Collins came to Dubai as an interior designer and fell in love with the country – especially with the architecture and the ambiance of the old wind tower houses in Bastakiya – and within a few years set up The Majlis Gallery.
Its mission? To promote the work of artists of international standing and to become a meeting place for creative minds. So, for any wandering souls, it’s as close as Dubai gets to a slice of art history. Aside from a Paul Wadsworth exhibition on in February, there’s Mohammed Masri’s portraits and some stunning work from Nitin Dadrawala. Whether you’re a seasoned art lover or just after a quick browse, it’s well worth a stop. Call 04 353 5550 for more information
4. The Dubai Creek
If you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s hard to miss the Creek. Rammed with battered abras and brand spanking new RTA water buses, this waterway is one of the oldest spots in town. Once as busy as Sheikh Zayed Road, the Creek is still used for importing goods to the Gold and Spice Souk, but it’s primarily reserved for tourists and residents looking for a snapshot of the emirate and a quick route to the Deira souks.
While regular abras cost between Dhs1-3 one way (it changes as swiftly as the tide), the RTA water buses are a tad more expensive at Dhs10. The former is dependent on the weather (in winter, it’s often brisk and refreshing and in summer a tad steamy), while the latter is state-of-the-art, ensuring you – and your shopping – arrive at your destination suitably chilled. For a true sense of the Bastakiya in all its glory, there’s no better way to see the sights. Go to www.rta.com for more information
5. Bastakiya Nights
After a hard day’s haggling, step inside Bastakiya Nights for some wholesome Arabian fare. The grand, heavy wooden doors immediately transport you to old Arabia, while the baklava is the perfect antidote to a hard day’s shopping. Call 04 353 7772 for more information
While Bastakiya is one of the oldest spots in town, it’s worth popping over to Deira’s Gold and Spice Souk – an equally historic area. Everything from name-inscribed necklaces at Shyam Jewellers (04 225 4297) to bags of cardamom, paprika and cumin at Nasser Ali Nassir Baker Trading (04 226 43590) are on offer, and haggling is par for the course.