A real souk? Like, an old-fashioned Arabian marketplace?
Not quite. Actually, not at all. Lining 18B Street is more a collection of typical shops – the only real similarity between this shopping area and the markets you’re picturing is that haggling is absolutely essential.
What can I buy?
Karama is well-known among Dubai’s residents as a go-to for the swathes of tourists who arrive looking for familiar, luxury leather handbags at much lower prices (due to the fact that some of those familiar designs are actually made in China, rather than Milan…). The same applies to the rows upon rows of wristwatches, sunglasses and sports gear on sale.
Anything to watch out for?
Most stores have salesmen standing outside, hollering at you to come and check out their stock. It’s not unusual to be followed or joined on your stroll by men insisting that you come and have a look at their “handbags, madam” or “watches, sir”. The incessant and insistent sales patter can tempt you towards violence, but a firm, loud “NO THANK YOU”, repeated twice or three times, should do the job.
Any gems I should seek out?
Once you’re bored of the bag shops, look for the stores with Dubai souvenirs in their windows (there’s a great one towards the middle of 18B Street, non-car park-facing). Beyond the mini Burj Khalifas, you’ll find stacks and stacks of pashminas, ranging from Dhs10 to upwards of Dhs500, based on their quality. You’ll find 100 percent pashmina wraps here for a fraction of the cost you’ll get them for in the malls, and if you buy a few, you can typically negotiate yourself a much bigger discount.
All that shopping’s hungry work. Where should I eat?
You’re spoilt for choice, but the cuisine of the community is Indian and Pakistani. There are some fantastic places, most of which are extremely budget-friendly. Try Calicut Paragon on 20B Street, which commands a huge following for its crab curries, or head to Aryaas on Kuwait Road for hearty vegetarian thalis at less than Dhs20 a head. If you’re planning to shop on Friday morning, note that restaurants open for lunch at 1pm.
Only AT Karama Souk
Karama Fish Market
Head to 45B Street for fresh bargain buys at this smaller, indoor version of Shindagha’s long-standing fish souk. Prices are keen and skilled negotiators can easily nab themselves a bargain by buying in bulk. A great spot for picking up some unusual barbecue produce, now that the weather’s cooling.