The sun is shining, the humidity is low, so we say it is time to ditch the malls and hit the pavements of Karama.
1. Dream Girl Tailors (04 337 7287) It’s a controversial move, but Time Out reckons a visit to Karama would be incomplete without a stop off at Dream Girl Tailors. Now, we say controversial because the much-loved Dreamgirls Tailors in Satwa is a force to be reckoned with and uttering another – and admittedly very similar – name is arguably sacrilege. But we’re in Karama and despite any competitive quibbles, Dream Girl Tailors delivers some of the finest threads in the ’hood. We ambled in with a ‘challenge’ piece (a fuchsia pink sequin embellished belly dancer costume for a fancy-dress shindig) in an attempt to put Dream Girl Tailors through their paces. Without so much as a sigh, head tailor Mahmed accepted the job, chirpily informed us that our get-up would be ready in 48 hours and asked if we would ‘prefer fuchsia or purple sequins’. True to his word, we popped in at the given time, threw a mere Dhs350 Mahmed’s way (how can you put a price on a sequinned all-in-one?) and tootled off to an Arabian Nights-themed party. Job done. 2. LuLu Supermarket (04 335 5244) Just round the corner from Dream Girl Tailors is LuLu Supermarket, where Kenwood kettles sell for a mere Dhs100, are Sony DVD players are a Dhs200. This whopping great space is a medley of Dubai-centric souvenirs (His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum pencil set, anyone?), Philips washing machines, Dhs5 nail polish and the freshest fruit and vegetables. Get there on a Friday, pick up some picnic fodder (the French sticks are as fresh as they come and the samosas are to die for), throw a Dhs10 picnic blanket in your basket and make for nearby Karama Park for some midday snacks. It’s one of the few places in Dubai that has that bustling vibe – almost on a par with the likes of Kerala in India. For dessert, just pop down to the nearby Caesar’s bakery (04 3930600) for a slab of black forest gateaux.
3. Karama Shopping Complex (04 336 7721) After a spot of lunch, Time Out meandered through Karama’s backstreets, until we stumbled across a complex of shops, aptly named Karama Shopping Complex. First stop is Mina Fashion (04 336 7721): there’s all manner of kids’ pyjamas, decorated with retro Spider-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle motifs. If it’s cheap, throw-away clothes you’re after, then this is the place to head – kids T-shirts come in at a menial Dhs20, while bedding starts at Dhs40. Round the corner lies Las Vegas (04 335 1549). Not the neon light-filled city famous for gambling, mind, but its far shabbier – but no less endearing – sibling. If you’ve got a fancy-dress shindig in the diary and fancy going as rapper 50 Cent, then this is your stop. Everything from Hardcore caps to NY tags adorn the dark green shelves and the clientele is decidedly brutish. Oh, and haggling is par for the course. In the rivalling corner, we have Lambamba (04 336 5535), a similar store offering all manner of wares by Ed Hardy (the revered tattooist). While we’re mildly disturbed by the cheap skulls dotted about the vicinity (Halloween should be done and dusted), there’s a whole stack of ‘designer’ T-shirts for Dhs25. For some Oz-inspired tat, take a left and you’ll find Mesk Al Kawther Gifts (04 335 1852). While the name isn’t snappy, the goods inside include blow-up crocodiles and even the odd didgeridoo. There’s also cowboy hats that have a certain Indiana Jones-esque appeal. Just don’t be afraid to haggle – we skulked out with an ‘Anya Hindmarch’-style ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ bag for a mere Dhs25.
4. iSell (04 334 2494) There are some places in Dubai that Time Out just keeps coming back to, and second-hand store supreme iSell is one of them. We’re not sure whether it’s the unadulterated bargains inside (Dolce & Gabbana skirts sell for a mere Dhs45) or the fact that it’s in a random place (Sultan Business Centre’s old-school decor is worlds apart from the polished halls of Mall of the Emirates), but either way it’s a definite must on the Karama trawl. On a recent visit, we unearthed a pair of brand new Hobbs patent pumps, some aged US flag-embellished Converse trainers and an entire Zara suit that still had all the original price tags on it. We challenge you to leave empty handed.
5. Archies (04 396 7924) Meander around the corner from iSell and prepare to stumble across a book lovers’ paradise. Hidden in a quaint, leafy backstreet (BurJuman is the nearest landmark), bookworms can rejoice at the range of literary gems on offer (we opted for a Mills & Boon classic or two). If you’re tired of shelling out hundreds of dirhams for the latest John Grisham (The Oxford English Dictionary is a mere Dhs10 here) or just want a relaxed browse among likeminded literary folk, then Archies is the way forward.
6. Kabalen Restaurant (04 3978839) If you’re a little peckish and need some post-shopping sustenance, then a stop off at the super homely Kabalen Restaurant is a must. Once through the canary yellow entrance, it’s pretty much like sitting down in someone’s dining room – all that separates you from the kitchen is a small window. The Filipino fare is as fresh as fodder comes: the adobong manok (it’s basically chicken soup) has that whole made-to-order thing going on, while the rest of the dishes offer an array of heady flavours, including lemongrass, ginger and lashings of garlic. A vat of the recommended coconut milk and you’ll be fully revived and ready to hit the Karama trail again.