Visitors to Dubai often wonder where to find a unique cultural experience in a city that’s so laden with new skyscrapers and mega-malls. Heritage area Bastakiya is famed for its maze-like streets and art galleries, but it also has a number of hidden shopping gems if you know where to look. Kill two birds with one stone and see the old town while you stock up on unique finds. Overlooking the tourist tat, this area offers one-off pieces, such as silver jewellery, art and rare Iranian antiques that are truly one of a kind.
XVA Gift Shop USP: Tucked away inside XVA Art Hotel, this gift shop is far from overpriced. You’ll find unique silver jewellery, leather belts, colourful kaftans in quality fabrics and a good selection of art books. Why go? This store stocks crafts by up-and-coming artists and you’re assured a one-off piece. The Arabic-inspired jewellery has a modern edge and we like the bronze statues by Iraqi artist Mutasim Al Kubaisi. Where? Near Dubai Museum, Bastakiya (04 353 5383). Silver necklace, Dhs400
Basta Art Café USP: As well as offering a tranquil courtyard and relaxing lounges in which to enjoy a lemon and mint drink, the tiny shop here sells Arabic-inspired homewares and jewellery. Why go? The oil lanterns are unlike any you’ll find anywhere else, and the hand-made bracelets are reasonably priced and look great paired with chunky silver bangles. If you’ve been looking for a fun way to display jewellery, take home one of the fork-and-spoon mirrors, on which you can dangle your earrings or chains. Where? Next to Ruler’s Court, near Dubai Museum (04 353 5071). Qur’an holder, Dhs120
The Majlis Gallery USP: Within the courtyard of this spacious gallery are a number of inner coves and showrooms housing precious homewares and glasswares, as well as art. Why go? The articulated bronze fish sculptures hanging from the trees are a sight to behold, and the fish servers and milk jugs will make impressive conversation starters when you next entertain. Where? Al Fahidi Roundabout, Bastakiya (04 353 6233). Bronze fish, Dhs27,000
Royal Saffron Herbs USP: This well-laid-out store sells all the spices and tourist buys you’ll find in the spice souk, minus the haggling. Why go? Everyone needs their very own set of salt and pepper sheikh and sheikhas, and the herb and spice display is divine. You’ll find frankincense from Somalia and Oman, as well as deep blue indigo, the type used to dye jeans. If you’re feeling experimental, pick up a packet of henna hair dye. Where? Bastakiya Museum (050 282 9565). Salt and pepper shakers, Dhs30 for a set
Home of Eastern Arts USP: This amazing treasure trove is full of one-of-a-kind antique goodies from Iran, and the owner is a fully-fledged antique dealer (so expect to pay premium prices) and will readily provide you with a history of each of his items. Why go? The vintage cameras date as far back as the ’30s (some from Russia), while you’ll also find unique Iranian miniatures with intricate detailing, one-off antique art pieces worth investing in (the dealer is adamant these are not photographed), as well as an old phone from Germany that has been covered in Arabic-style inlay. A real find. Where? Bastakiya Heritage Village (050 644 3651). Vintage camera, Dhs2,000