Top independent shops in Dubai

Our fashion experts find the best buys

The Knowledge
Bur Dubai

Natasha Jethwani, jewellery designer*
Five Green
The perfect antidote to the acres of identikit boutiques and mall stores that smother the city, Five Green is an elegant and tasteful repository of loveliness. Part clothes store, part art-space, part music store (think Soul Jazz, BBE and Jazzanova releases), it stocks wares from the likes of 2K, Aei Kei, Paul Frank, GSUS, Tsubi and Upper Playground. Check out its sibling 50˚C in Souk Al Bahar where you’ll find more of the same, but with a few more quirky trinkets from Kidrobot.
Five Green (04 340 2090), Oud Metha

Holy Trinity Thrift Centre
The 30-year-old thrift centre is a Dubai institution. A loyal bargain-hunting clientele can be found eagerly rifling through the books, CDs, videos, clothes, shoes, ornaments and random pieces of furniture. Donations are always welcome, but obviously the more sellable, the better.
Holy Trinity Thrift Centre (04 337 8192), Oud Metha

Kachins
A long-standing Time Out favourite, Kachins is probably the best place in town for getting a few well cut threads tailor-made to your specifications. Their attention to detail is legendary: they will give you three fittings for a suit and only charge Dhs500, which compared to what you’d pay off the peg, represents superb value.
Kachins (04 352 1246), Bur Dubai

Kube
Delivering fashionable and affordable Indian and Emirati designs to the Oud Metha masses, Kube has built up a steady following since it opened its doors a few years ago. This quirky little boutique – it’s the sort of place to while away an hour or two – not only stocks ready-to-wear pieces to females of all ages and sizes, it also supplies cool chunky jewellery, shoes and bling handbags, not to mention original pieces of art that won’t have your bank manger’s knickers in a twist.
Kube (04 335 7657), Oud Metha

Ohm Records
*Natasha’s choice
There are many reasons why we love Ohm Records: the incredibly friendly and genned up staff; the open decks that are free for you to practice and play on; the cool Lomo cameras nestling on the shelves, and the sumptuous sofas that you can just chill out on. There is also the fact that it’s one of the Middle East’s largest vinyl sanctuaries, with an ever expanding selection of house, breaks, hip hop, techno and trance tunes. There’s no place like Ohm, we say.
Ohm Records (04 397 3728), Bur Dubai

Ozi Trading
On entering this humble store – it takes minimalist to a whole new level – you’d be surprised to find Dhs250 Lorenzo art-deco chairs stacked against one each other. On further delving there’s Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove’s quirkyier-than-thou pews selling for Dhs120 (they normally retail at Dhs310) alongside all manner of furniture that doesn’t look like it’s graced the IKEA catalogue.
Ozi Trading (04 397 7335), Bur Dubai

Perfector Electronics
It might take you a good few goes to find Perfector, buried in the heart of Bur Dubai, but persist because it’s a true gem. It boasts the usual TV/DVD electronic fare but the biggest plus is the camera section: professional and consumer SLR cameras, cheaper happy-snapper models, and handheld storage devices are all available in abundance at unbeatable prices.
Perfector Electronics (04 353 1786), Al Fahadi Street

Royal Dirham
While Dubai is overloaded with tat-tastic shops, the Royal Dirham – as its name boldly denotes – is the king. Spread over two extravagantly lit floors, it includes every conceivable household item, including camel-shaped tea pots and a whole row of almost-as-tacky-as-the-real-thing Burj Al Arab artefacts. Brilliant.
Royal Dirham (04 352 9670), Bur Dubai

*Natasha Jethwani’s jewellery is available at Soirée. Call 04 349 4995 for more information.

Deira

Essa, fashion designer*
Blue Wave Electronics
If you explore the nooks and crannies behind Deira’s Gold Souk you’ll find a host of computer shops, some dodgier than others, offering knockdown games and hardware sometimes hundreds of dirhams cheaper than anywhere else. The most reputable is Blue Wave Electronics. Inside the tiny store you’ll find the new, slim-sized 80GB PS3 for just Dhs1,720. The highlight, however, is the original Super Nintendos at a paltry Dhs150 each.
Blue Wave Electronics (04 229 1109) Gold Souk

Choc and Nuts
This one-stop shop of Middle Eastern and Persian goodies is packed with Iranian almonds, Lebanese pistachios and Egyptian seeds, all for sale by the pound. It’s a long narrow shop with huge open boxes of nuts on the left and sweets from around the world on the right, all waiting to be weighed up by a delightfully old-fashioned set of scales.
Choc and Nuts
(04 221 2035), Baniyas Road

Gems Gallery
While the Gold Souk is, understandably, renowned for selling gold, Gems Gallery steps things up a notch by selling precious stones at seriously competitive prices. Unlike many of its rivals in the Gold & Diamond Park, the store doesn’t pressure you to leave with the equivalent of the crown jewels in your bag.
Gems Gallery (04 345 3167), Gold Souk

Hobby Centre
If you are looking for a remote-controlled tank, Jet Ski, or Formula 1 racecar, then you will no doubt find Hobby Centre to be the best shop in town for all your mini motoring needs. This small store caters for budding petrol-heads of all ages with mechanical animals suitable for toddlers, build-your-own wind-up vehicles for the slightly older child, and cars capable of travelling 20km per hour for experienced hobbyists.
Hobby Centre (04 295 5512), Airport Road

Mostafawi
Half the stock is painfully out of date (mauve Lee wife-beater vest anyone?), the staff are fantastically surly, the changing room’s minute and the shop’s difficult to find, but for the cheapest authentic branded jeans in town, it has to be Mostafawi. Time Out just digs those boot cut Wranglers, a steal at under Dhs100.
Mostafawi (04 226 3733), Jamal Abdul Nasser Square

Nasser Ali Nassir Baker Trading
If it’s packs of spices you’re after, then haggle no further – most things are Dhs15, bar a few dodgy aftershaves (Eau de Man Power, anyone?). There’s shelves of lotions and potions, including Dhs10 Stress Reliever Balm, Dhs15 Lady Success Serum and a stack of oddments, such as camel-shaped pumice stones. All in all, it’s a weird and wonderful world.
Nasser Ali Nassir Baker Trading (04 226 4359), Spice Souk

Kanz
*Essa’s choice
Every square metre of the Gold Souk is crammed with 24-carat trinkets and the requisite name necklaces (as favoured by Carrie in Sex And The City). So it takes a pretty special store to catch your eye, which is where Kanz comes into the equation: for good prices, top notch gold and service with a smile there’s no better contender. And remember, haggling is par for the course.
Kanz (04 226 6786), Gold Souk

*Essa only goes by his first name. His label is available at S*uce. Call 04 344 7270 for more information.
*Zayan Ghandour is owner of S*uce boutique. Call 04 344 7270 for more information.

Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim

Ayesha and Dipesh Depala, fashion designers*
Creative Arts Centre
Two villas in Jumeirah make up this unique operation, a lively and bustling place that is a blend of fine art gallery, picture framers, antique dealers and craft store. It’s a particularly good spot for searching out tasteful, good quality antiques, predominantly sourced from Oman as well as Bedouin silver, Arabic objects and heavy wood furniture.
Creative Arts Centre (04 344 4394), Jumeirah Beach Road

Disco 2000
While the CD section at Disco 2000 has a fair enough smattering of discs around the Dhs50 mark, the DVD section is brimming with bargains, specialising in cult faves old and new and all for under Dhs50. Grab Reservoir Dogs for Dhs30 or Citizen Kane for Dhs25. For the really tightfisted flick fanatic there’s even a Dhs10 section including masterpieces by Kubrick, Welles and Hitchcock.
Disco 2000 (04 394 0139), Umm Suqeim

IF Boutique
*Dipesh’s choice
Don’t be deterred by IF’s off-the-beaten-track location: this refreshing boutique is well worth the effort. Fashion stalwarts such as Yohi Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe, Undercover and Ann Demeulemeester decorate the pristine rails and it’s the sort of place where you can easily spend an entire afternoon.
IF Boutique (04 394 7260), Umm Suqeim.

Lime tree café

There are some places that really don’t need an introduction, and this is one of them. Not only is Lime Tree Café a must visit for weekend brunch, but it stocks some of the most unique food stuffs in the emirate. Dark chocolate infused with cracked pepper anyone?
Lime Tree Café (04 349 8498), Jumeirah Beach Road

Le Stock
When somewhere like Le Stock comes along, selling all the designer cast-offs from much loved boutique Tigerlily with up to 70 per cent off, we must rejoice. There’s a fair selection of Matthew Williamson, Joseph and Chloé, as well as unknown designers that have that ‘where did you get that from’ factor.
Le Stock (04 342 0211), Jumeirah Beach Road

O’ de Rose
O’ de Rose, a boutique on Al Wasl Road, has a garden where you can sup tea, and boasts an array of global trinkets that could sway even the more reluctant shoppers among us. There’s suzani-embroidered sofas, ottomans from Bokja in Lebanon, and mezze trays. And that’s just the tip of this beautifully embellished iceberg.
O’ de Rose (04 369 3575), Al Wasl Road

Park n’ Shop
It might not be the biggest supermarket in Dubai but Park n’ Shop has a better selection of goods than most of its monolithic rivals. The bakery is great, there’s a fine butcher’s section, as well as DIY goods, CDs, books, cards – in fact damned near everything you’ll ever need for survival.
Park n’ Shop (04 394 5671), Al Wasl Road

Picnico
It’s easy to drive straight past Picnico (its behind a petrol station on Beach Road), but make a point of dropping by if this has previously been the case – the store is packed full of general camping gear as well as specialised GPS systems and gadgets that will come in handy for your next foray into the desert wilderness.
Picnico (04 394 1653), Jumeirah Beach Road

Soirée
When it comes to off-the-wall unique designs and immaculately embellished saris, Pakistani boutique Soirée is up for the challenge. The Al Wasl-based store is pretty new, but it packs a fair punch with the likes of Umar Sayeed, Nadiya Kassam and Nida Azwer frocks nestling among Natasha Jethwani jewellery.
Soirée (04 349 4995), Al Wasl Road

*Ayesha and Dipesh Depala co-own boutique Ayesha Depala. Call 04 344 5378 for more information.

Karama

Zayan Ghandour, boutique owner*
Cane Craft
For any wicker lovers out there, Cane Craft bends bamboo into some solid and astonishingly cheap furniture. Ignore the bookshelves, cupboards and spectacularly naff cane cockerels and head straight for the chairs and tables your patio/balcony/backyard has been yearning for.
Cane Craft (04 337 4572), Karama Shopping Complex

Century 2000

Century 2000 is every label lover’s dream, stocking Roberto Cavalli for under Dhs1,000 and random bits (Gucci motorcycle helmets, anyone?) for even less. There’s even a loft upstairs that sells all the dodgy, damaged, off-the-back-of-a-lorry gear – it’s all in perfect condition, albeit from last season’s stock.
Century 2000 (04 336 6654), Za’abeel Road

CM Supermarket
It’s easy to be underwhelmed by Dubai’s only Thai supermarket – large parts of it look like any other grocery store in the city. But look a little closer and you’ll find all you need to prepare your own Thai masterpieces: makrud lime leaves, lemongrass, shallots, baby aubergines and plenty of chilli. And if you can’t be bothered to cook up a storm, Baitong restaurant next door will whip you up a decent Thai meal for around Dhs25.
CM Supermarket (04 397 8758), Near Al Attar Shopping Mall

Day Today
This neon-spattered bargain emporium offers just about everything you could ever need at prices from another era. Budget desk lamps, irons and multi-plug sockets are par for the course and if you’re the type of commitment-phobe whose short-term mentality means you’re still living out of a suitcase, this economical nook is the way forward.
Day Today (04 228 4843), Maktoum Road

Dubai Charity Centre
The bookshelves are stacked with well-thumbed paperbacks with titles as diverse as Sex And The Occult and The Magic Faraway Tree, plus there is the ubiquitous charity shop selection of Maeve Binchy and John Le Carré. And most of these tomes sell for the princely sum of Dhs10. The best bit? All profits go straight to the Dubai Centre for Special Needs.
Dubai Charity Centre, (04 337 8246), behind Choitrams

Gifts & Souvenirs
This aptly named souvenir hub boasts a comprehensive, if unexpected range of very cheap items, running the full gamut of homewares. Check out the Chinese blue and white ceramic saucepans and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum crockery sets. There’s also incense and burners in abundance and large, carved wooden caskets inlaid with mother of pearl.
Gifts & Souvenirs (04 337 7884), Karama Central Market

iSell
There’s a horde of fashion mavens who pleaded with Time Out to keep iSell under wraps. The reason? It’s packed with the cheapest – and best – vintage and second hand wares in town, including battered leather bags, granny-inspired frocks and old Converse trainers. Whether it’s knackered trilbies or antiquated jewellery, no visit to Karama would be complete without a scour of iSell.
iSell (04 334 2494), Sultan Business Centre

Janvin Boutique
Crammed to the ceilings with cheap – and the more run-of-the mill – skirts, shawls and kaftans, the self-titled ‘boutique’ (it’s more of an inside stall) comes into its own with its selection of unusual Indian hand-embroidered bags – which won’t cost you more than Dhs25 if you ask for their ‘best price’.
Janvin Boutique (04 337 3896), Karama Shopping Complex

LuLu Supermarket
*Zayan’s choice
If you’re only in Dubai for the short term, but need homely stalwarts such as Kenwood kettles, Sony DVD players and Phillips washing machines, then LuLu – and it’s cheaper than cheap prices – should do the job. Aside from saving you cash on the electronics front, its adjoining supermarket offers some amazing deals on groceries. It literally epitomises the term, ‘one stop shop’.
LuLu Supermarket (04 335 5244), Karama Park

*Zayan Ghandour is co-owner of boutique S*uce. Call 04 344 7270 for more information.

Mall trawl

Samara Punjabi, boutique owner*
Ayesha Depala
Indian designer Ayesha Depala’s boutique is awash with silk, chiffon, tulle and lace in soft, serene colours. Think long evening gowns, baby-doll dresses and delicate cardigans – all beautifully cut and timelessly stylish to last beyond the current season.. It’s a one-stop-shop for the ultimate frock.
Ayesha Depala (04 344 5378), The Village Mall

Bauhaus
*Samara’s choice
From trucker caps, M-bottomed Evisu jeans and ubiquitous ironic, Bauhaus is making its mark on the mall trawl. The compact store in Ibn Battuta mall also carries original art from Hutch & Garner and a stack of achingly cool music.
Bauhaus (04 368 5551), Ibn Battuta Mall

Boutique 1
This browse-friendly high-end boutique is a brilliant bet for designer labels. Both stores – at Emirates Towers and The Walk – boast all the latest offerings from Prada, Marni, Alexander McQueen, Lulu Guinness and Gina.
Boutique 1 (04 330 4555), Emirates Towers

Boom & Mellow
Brightly-hued bags hang on the walls, chunky necklaces drape temptingly from silver pegs, and crystal-encrusted earrings sparkle alluringly behind glass cabinets. For unique wares, look out for cool creations from New York designer Susan Hanover and Miss Pink.
Boom & Mellow (04 341 3993), Mall of the Emirates

Daiso
Although not independent per se (it’s a Japanese chain) Daiso is a bargain hunter’s Aladdin’s cave. Pick from a pile of Dhs5 nail varnishes or a mountain of coloured Tupperware from as little as Dhs6.
Daiso (04 335 1532), Lamcy Plaza

Ginger & Lace
Funky décor – sugar pink walls, ornate hanging rails and Fashion TV on loop – make for surroundings that are almost as flamboyant as the stock. With Betsey Johnson’s draped fluid tops and jewellery from Johnny Loves Rosie, this is avant-garde fashion at its best. Definitely worth a try for some quirky buys.
Ginger & Lace (04 324 5699), Wafi

Kraze
While it may be stationed on the Al Ain road (20 minutes outside of Dubai), Kraze is one of those places worth venturing further afield for. Owner Kiran Sawlani believes in giving local talent a leg up, so expect one-off gems from the likes of Buffi Jashanmal, Barkha Mulani and a host of other Dubai-based designers.
Kraze (04 425 9822), Dubai Outlet Mall

Luxecouture
This compact store focuses on niche designers and classic rather than frivolous items. You can find everything here from slick work attire to breathtaking gowns, which are likely to be seen in the likes of Grazia and Harper’s Bazaar.
Luxecouture (04 344 7933), The Village Mall

S*uce
If its pure gems you’re after with enough quirks to set you apart from Dubai’s crowds, S*uce is your stop. Crammed to its pink, sweet-as-sugar ceilings with Sass & Bide, Amuzi & David, Isabella Capeto and Laura Lees, it’s a definite stop for anyone worth their weight on the social circuits.
S*uce (04 344 7270), The Village Mall

Tigerlily
Draping rails filled with flowing, feminine frocks vie for attention over UK designer Julien McDonald and Australian exports Sass & Bide wares. It’s the ultimate stop off for anyone seeking something utterly unique, yet wholly fashionable.
Tigerlily (04 324 8088), Wafi

*Samara Punjabi is owner of Bauhaus. Call 04 368 5551 for more information

Satwa

Buffi Jashanmal, fashion designer*
Al Shahama Household Appliances
Al Shahama Household Appliances does exactly what it says on the tin and offers a slightly more personal service than its multi-chain rivals. Prices are competitive and expect to leave with the unexpected (the polka dot trays are as kitsch as they come).
Al Shahama Household Appliances (04 344 5739), Satwa Street

Bavaria Optics
For some strange reason, opticians have swarmed to Diyafah Street in the last three years, so picking the best is no mean feat. That said, Bavaria Optics caught our eye with its great range of specs (Chanel, Ray Ban and Paul Smith to name a few). They also house some of the city’s finest Teutonic eye doctors and eye tests that are thorough to the point of intimidating.
Bavaria Optics (04 345 1919), Diyafah Street

Book World
A literary lover’s paradise, on our visit Book World stocked Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s Of Love And Other Demons, the complete set of David Niven’s autobiographies and – for the romantics – Mills & Boon’s Summer Of Love – at less than Dhs50 for the lot. There’s also a great selection of second-hand magazines, including the first ever edition of Time Out Dubai.
Book World (04 396 9697), Plant Street

Classic City
It’s official, Time Out is obsessed with Classic City and all the joys (Dhs2 nail polishes, 20-packs of ‘Mojo’ crisps and the odd spatula) it harbours. There’s no better place to rummage around for quirky and potentially hilarious gifts. The Mosque alarm clocks and Mr Lover Lover Eau de Cologne are cases in point.
Classic City (04 349 1012), Satwa Street

Cocos
Cocos has garnered a firm following among Dubai’s bargain hunters and sells ‘I love Dubai’ T-shirts. It’s fair to say that this self proclaimed boutique (store is more apt) has hit this neighbourhood by storm and, dodgy whitening creams aside, it stocks some cool wares for a snip of big-chain prices.
Cocos (04 267 8725), Satwa Street

Mr Ben’s Costume Closet
If you’re in need of a Darth Vader costume, sumo suit. or a Shrek get-up, pop on down to Mr Ben’s Costume Closet. Crammed to the ceiling with fancy dress trinkets, the store has a ‘two weeks to get you anything’ policy, so you can channel any bizarre character that tickles your fancy.
Mr Ben’s Costume Closet (04 345 3577), Diyafah Street

Women’s World
*Buffi’s choice
Women’s World boasts everything from handmade lace to ‘Chanel Fashion’ – emblazoned ribbon (Dhs2 per yard) – and that’s not forgetting rails of ’60s-inspired bead necklaces. While we were enamoured by the Dhs30 butterfly brooches, owner Manoj Makhijani assures us that the Dhs4 silk flowers are hot to trot.
Women’s World (04 398 4349), Diyafah Street

Salehia
Discounting the less salubrious areas of Deira, Salehia is the finest place to get a date in the city. The place is over flowing with the sticky treats and whether they’re dipped in honey (Dhs60 a kilo), wrapped in almonds (Dhs40 per kilo) or as nature intended (Dhs28 per kilo), they’re bound to have you rhapsodising.
Salehia (04 345 2133) Diyafah Street

Yousif Reddah Smoking Equipment
Almamzar shish tobacco sells here for a mere Dhs25 and ‘Barberry’ lighters vie for attention over ‘Gacci’ pipe cleaners. For true connoisseur’s manager Hassan Salhi suggests the raw Isfahan tobacco – ‘it’s the purest you’ll find in Dubai,’ he boasts.
Yousif Reddah Smoking Equipment (04 533 33140), near Diyafah Street

*Buffi Jashanmal’s label Quiet Riot is available across Dubai. Call 04 425 9822 for more information.

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