From food to flea, 15 of the city's best al fresco shopping spots
With a considerable number of foodie and fashion markets launching this year, now is a better time than ever to explore the city’s burgeoning market scene. From afternoons of relaxed, al fresco perusing of organic foods to fast and furious bartering for second-hand wares in the early mornings, Dubai offers a range of experiences and products. To help you find out which market best suits your fancy, we’ve compiled a guide to this season’s biggest to give you a comprehensive look at what’s on offer at each. What’s more, we’ve caught up with organisers and stallholders to get the lowdown on how to get your very own stall and become a part of the scene.
RIPE Foodie Friday This arts and crafts market, which is held in various locations across Dubai, is a treasure trove of knick-knacks, hand-made wares and one-offs. Get your hands on Argan oil (sourced from Morocco), which is supposedly great for everything from a dressing for couscous to a treatment for your hair and skin; white truffle oil, home-made sweets and cakes, vinegars, spices, to hand-made greetings cards, clothes, head ware and stalls selling bespoke hand-made trinkets. Check out Saray Couture and its stall which sells unique jewellery. Its beads and necklaces are sourced from all over the world including Spain and Turkey. Elsewhere, you can buy freshly made artisan bread, which is stone-baked in Jumeirah, as well as smoothies, ice-teas, Belgian chocolates and wagyu beef. Park entry Dhs3. Every Friday. Safa Park, gate 5, 9am-2pm, www.ripeme.com (04 380 7602).
Blue Planet Green People Last year the organic grocery and lifestyle store launched its first-ever farmers’ market, due to start up again this year in the end of November. Visitors to the market can buy a selection of fresh, organic and locally grown produce, directly from the farmers who have grown it in the UAE. Being located in JLT, there is a pleasant neighbourhood and family-friendly vibe to this market, which features residents with a talent for baking, handicrafts and more. You can also buy snacks from nearby Brazilian café Sweet Brasil. Fri 10am-2pm, from Friday November 29. Outside Blue Planet Green People store, promenade level, Al Seef 2, Cluster U, JLT (04 369 5209).
Dubai Flea Market The biggest and most robustly stocked version of this outdoor second-hand market takes place in Dubai’s Safa Park on the first Saturday of every month, while another runs on the second Friday of every month at Uptown Mirdif. Dubai’s answer to a car boot sale sees the city’s residents flock to set up stalls from as early as 6am, while the moment the park’s gates open at 8am sees crowds flood in to haggle for bargains. Expect to find everything from old electronics (big business among some single-minded shoppers) to sports equipment, clothes and kitchenware. Whether you’re a stallholder or shopper, the busy, chaotic atmosphere and intense bartering is great fun, and the event is a good way to make a bit of extra cash by selling off your belongings, or picking up an excellent deal. The best tip we can give you is to get there early – most of the best finds are gone by 9.30am – and if you can, leave the car at home and take a taxi, as parking can be hard to come by, unless you find a spot on the other side of the park. Park entry Dhs3. Seller’s stall with one table, two chairs and two entry wristbands Dhs250. First Saturday of every month, 8am-3pm. Safa Park, www.dubai-fleamarket.com (055 305 7389).
Coming soon Souk Festive Market at Madinat Jumeirah From Tuesday December 17 to Friday December 27, Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah will once again host a festive market. Expect roasted chestnuts, gingerbread treats, traditional beverages and an eight metre Christmas tree, along with a giant snow globe, ice rink, Santa surfing, reindeer rodeo, Santa’s grotto and lots more. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 8888). For more festive markets, keep an eye on upcoming issues of Time Out Dubai.
Farmers’ Market at Dubai Garden Centre Every Saturday (except the third Saturday of each month), the city’s largest and best-known garden centre hosts its very own farmers’ market. Stalls are set up around the centre’s regular displays of ceramic pots and foliage, with a huge range of products available for shoppers to buy, while the kids get to jump on a bouncy castle and a saxophonist plays lively tunes. On our visit, we spied organic artisan bread, local milk, fresh juices, organic vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, sweet treats, a butcher’s stand selling biltong, beef Cumberland sausages and chicken bratwurst and wild ocean-caught fish. The organisers of the market are on the lookout for more stallholders – and not just professionals. If you’ve a knack for cooking up something delicious in the kitchen that you’d like to sell – jam, tarts, biscuits, etc – they’re keen to hear from you (email Christophe at email@example.com). Free. Every Saturday (except the third Saturday of the month), 9am-2pm. Dubai Garden Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.dubaigardencentre.ae (04 340 0006).
Prime Market Formerly Dubai Designer Market, this new concept for emerging fashion designers, trendsetters and vintage fiends launched on November 9 at boutique hotspot Sunset Mall in Jumeirah 3. Taking place on the second Saturday of every month, the event is a platform for design entrepreneurs to find a following, as well as a place to get your hands on pre-owned, high-end designer and vintage clothes and accessories. Upcoming designers featured at the market include Eva Torbinska Bespoke (men’s fashion), GISELLAblu (women’s fashion), Maria Iqbal (furniture, art and accessories) and Moca (women’s fashion). Free. Second Saturday of every month, 1pm-7pm. Sunset Mall, Jumeirah 3, www.prime-dubai.com (050 251 2480).
ARTE Market An eclectic market for local hand-made items, arts and crafts, the ARTE Market runs twice a month, once at Dubai Festival City Mall and then again at Times Square Center. The market’s unique selling point is that stallholders may only sell products that have been made in the UAE by local artisans. As well as cool urban designer Lady Mauve’s kimonos and giant crystal rings (they’re straight out of adventure film The Dark Crystal) we spotted colourful shoulder bags featuring motifs of Frida Kahlo, knitted accessories, tricked-up bamboo plants, rope and crochet baskets, second-hand books, hand-made soaps, ceramics, handmade dolls and funky baby wear and bibs, photography and edible items including cupcakes and even vegan sweets. Free. First and second Friday of the month. Dubai Festival City Mall (noon-9pm) and Times Square Center (noon-7pm), www.arte.ae (050 456 7481).
Wafi Bazaar One of the city’s newer markets, this alternative Old Dubai retail opportunity strikes on the third Saturday of the month at Wafi Mall, but will run every weekend in December. Next to the Café Court, it features over 50 stalls stocking handicrafts, candles, homeware, African art, fashion, accessories and more. We were taken with exquisite flapper-esque vintage brooches and delicate handbags from Audrey’s Cats, the wire parrot sculptures and the infused salts, vinegars and oils. Free. The third Saturday of every month 10am-8pm, near Café Court, Wafi Mall (04 324 4555). Those interested in holding a stall can contact 050 558 3132.
The Farmers’ Market on The Terrace With six separate farms supplying an array of organic food products and no middle man between you buying the food and the farmer, this community initiative is awash with healthy produce. Everything from aubergines, green beans and zucchini to red radish and an excellent selection of fresh herbs are on offer. If you like your ingredients to be fresh, ethical and nutritious, this is certainly one of the city’s best alternatives to the supermarket. Free. Friday 9am-1pm. From November 29, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Ballroom Gardens,Sheikh Zayed Road, www.facebook.com/TheFarmersMarketOnTheTerrace (04 427 9856).
Dubai Outlet Mall Weekend Market Located about 30 minutes outside of town at the Dubai Outlet Mall, this weekend market promises even more bargains than the already discounted goods available in this massive shopping space. Unfortunately, although we’ve found that things on sale are definitely cheap, there is yet to be a show-stopping bargain find that makes the long drive to the mall worth it. The highlight of the market, which is not too much more than a few stalls pitched at one end of the food court, are TOMS shoes. The manufacturer donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair sold. Elsewhere, there are stickers, toys, abayas, colourful leggings, caps and costume jewellery for sale. Free. Thu-Fri 10am-midnight, Saturday 10am-10pm, Dubai Outlet Mall, Dubai Al Ain Road (Route 66) www.dubaioutletmall.com/Home (04 423 4666).
Festival City Mall Market Situated at the back of Festival City Mall, this market has an undeniably pleasant location. With the Festival City waterways running in front of the stalls, and the marina just a stone’s throw away, it’s a lovely place to spend a lazy afternoon wandering around. There are only a handful of stalls here, operated by the organisers of the Covent Garden Market (as are those at Dragon Mart) so it’s not a standalone attraction, but it complements the main mall well. You’ll find a good selection of children’s toys and clothes for sale, with the stalls offering something different from what you’ll find at the chain stores inside the mall. Other interesting items available include a myriad selection of hand-made jewellery, colourful beauty products and a wide selection of perfumes. If you’re looking for some gifts, or have people visiting, you can also pick up unusual touristy knick-knacks. But even if none of these goods take your fancy, this small market is a relaxing break away from the Festival City Mall. Free. Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. Festival City Marina Promenade, Dubai Festival City Mall (04 213 6213).
Dragon Mart Market You might recognise versions of this market from JBR, Dubai Marina and around Emirates Living. Currently, Covent Garden Market operates stalls in both Festival City and Dragon Mart, where proprietors sell everything from handbags and purses to pashminas and wear-it-a-thousand-different-ways dresses. The Dragon Mart market will reopen from Friday November 22. Free. Fri-Sat 10am-midnight. Dubai Festival City and Dragon Mart (050 425 0543).
Year-round outdoor shopping
Dubai Fish Market Selling everything from octopus and crab to hammour and even shark (though we’re not too happy about the last two), the fish souk has been in business for decades. It’s the perfect time of year for a seafood barbecue, so get there at the crack of dawn for your pick of the freshest produce, and be prepared to haggle. Shindagha, opposite the Gold Souk, Deira (no number).
Spice Souk Located between the Creek and Gold Souk, the spice district sees vendors place baskets full of imported products outside their shops, lining the small roads and alleyways of the area. The scent of dried limes, cardamom and cinnamon hangs in the air, though we recommend trying to scout out goods that have been kept in air-tight containers rather than out in the open, as they can lose a lot of their freshness and pungency. Deira (no number).
Al Awir Nurseries Pick up incredibly good value plants for your balcony or garden from a series of vendors. From young potting plants for Dhs4 to ancient olive trees for several thousand dirhams, expect impressive variety. You can also pick up ceramic pots for a good deal less than many more central outlets. Al Awir Road (no number).