1 Dubai Outlet Mall Weekend Market: When we walked into Dubai Outlet Mall through the dome entrance, the huge banner that greeted us, announcing the WEEKEND MARKET in grand, big-event-promising block caps, got us pretty excited about what might be in store. How disappointing, then, that it turned out to be a few sad little stalls stationed at the top of an escalator.
When’s it on? Every weekend, 10am-midnight.
It sells: Discount make-up, perfumes, slogan T-shirts for babies, painted pottery, souvenirs, trinkets.
Go for: Branded lipsticks and eyeshadows for Dhs15 a pop, and designer colognes for between Dhs150-250. The latter are likely to be those that are long out of fashion. That’s dad’s birthday present sorted though, right?
Would we recommend? Not really, unless you’re at the mall already and fancy browsing cheap tat (not an uncommon pastime, nor one that Time Out looks down on, we hasten to add). Don’t go out of your way, though.
2 Community Arts Market at Festival Centre: To compare Festival Centre’s handful of stalls to Camden’s Stables market in North London would be something of a stretch. (Nay, a giant leap… one big enough for mankind). And yet there’s something vaguely reminiscent of Camden’s charm in the way these stalls are dotted about the labyrinthine lanes in the mall’s Trade Routes area. It’s in the products too – brightly coloured, self-made garments (kaftans, dresses with star motifs), bejewelled purses, masses of necklaces, bracelets and rings, and even a table stocked with home-made preserves and chocolates.
When’s it on? Every first weekend of the month, 12pm-8pm.
It sells: Art, clothes, jewellery, toys, accessories, preserves, confectionery.
Go for: There are a few hidden treasures on the clothes rails, with some lovely kaftans costing just Dhs100-150. We really liked the multi-coloured sock monkeys for kids, too. (OK, we happen to believe they’re not just for kids).
Would we recommend? Definitely have a wander if you’re in Festival Centre, but be prepared to dig deep for something you’ll like. Only make a special trip if you’re a hardcore tat browser.
3 Thai Street Market at Dusit Thani (24th floor) on Sheikh Zayed Road: The idea was that the Dusit Thani would host an authentic Thai street market. Except that, rather than being on the street, it would stand opposite its signature Thai restaurant on the 24th floor. Still, we were told to expect live music, dancing, traditional Thai clothing, handicrafts and seasonal produce. What we found was very disappointing, indeed.
When’s it on? Every day, 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm.
It sells: Thai-style parasols (plain and patterned), flower-shaped soaps, woven baskets filled with tat.
Go for: A parasol, if you really must. They’re more akin to overgrown cocktail umbrellas, however.
Would we recommend? Absolutely not. None of what was promised in the press release is actually there. This is not a street fare – it’s a table selling little more than umbrellas and soaps.
4 Dubai Flea Market in Safa Park, near Gate 5: This is arguably the event responsible for triggering Dubai’s entire weekend market trend. After hibernating in a nearby school hall over summer, the flea has re-emerged into the Safa Park sunshine. Unfortunately, this may have happened a little too soon: this month’s market should really have been renamed Sweat Fest. It’s best to get to Dubai Flea as early as possible; if you get there after 11am be prepared to sort through a lot of chaff to get to any wheat.
When’s it on? Once a month, 8am-3pm. Check the website, dubai-fleamarket.com, for dates.
It sells: Second-hand goods: mainly clothes, books, DVDs, jewellery, CDs, magazines and the occasional cupcake – and, bizarrely, toaster.
Go for: A pleasant day out and a slight chance of a real bargain.
Would we recommend? Yes – although it does seem the standard of goods has gone down. But perhaps we’re just not getting there early enough.
5 Covent Garden Market at The Walk, JBR: We’d always scoffed at the name, but we still liked the idea of Covent Garden market, probably because of its location: The Walk’s cobbled street seems the perfect spot for a wander and a browse. The market was smaller than expected, though – there can only be about 30 stalls in total.
When’s it on? Wed-Thu, 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat, 10am-9pm.
It sells: Flip flops, summer dresses, kaftans, sun hats, trinkets, handbags, purses. There are also portrait painters on hand, and a station for kids to paint their own T-shirts.
Go for: The Fair Trade stall has some pretty purses for around Dhs50, and there are bright summer dresses for between Dhs150-200. We also spotted some crazy ballet pumps with pictures of basset hounds on the toes.
Would we recommend? If you’re at The Walk, definitely have a gander. But if you splash out on a taxi across town especially (like we did), you might find yourself disappointed.