For record-breaking, up-to-the-second shopping, it's all here, writes Belinda Jackson.
Tiny Dubai has almost 50 malls, led by the world's largest, Dubai Mall, which is linked to the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa. Visit Paris's Galeries Lafayette and New York's Bloomingdale's, say hi to Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, the Fashion Avenue, aquarium and ice rink. Mall of the Emirates (MOE) comes a close second with Harvey Nicks and Ski Dubai. Its new Fashion Dome includes Christian Louboutin, Sephora, Balenciaga and Diane von Furstenberg. Ibn Battuta Mall hosts the usual mainstream British high-street brands such as TopShop and Next, underpinned by Debenhams and H&M, though it's a hike. May as well stick with the more central, newly extended Deira City Centre mall, Bur Juman or Festival Centre.
Dubai is synonymous with perfume and bakhoor, a rich, fragrant home perfume made from sandalwood, frankincense and oud. It's sold everywhere; just follow your nose. Camel-kitsch lovers can snap up T-shirts, mugs and souvenirs at Camel Company (MOE), while shisha pipes and khanjars (decorative curved Arabian knives) are found in the souks (markets). Packaged dates make great gifts: visit Bateel for organic luxe dates (in most malls) or, for bargains, head to Carrefour supermarkets.
For silk carpets and woollen kilims from across the Arab world, pashminas, souvenirs and Kashmiri chain-stitch rugs, make for the upper level of the Blue Souk in neighbouring emirate Sharjah, less than 30 minutes' drive from the Burj Khalifa. Rents are half the price, therefore so are the goods.
Touristy, photogenic Madinat Souk is great for browsing and waterfront snacking but pricey. The historic region of Deira, a five-minute boat ride across the creek, is home to gold, perfume and textile souks and a small spice souk. The touts feed off tourists, so bargain if you shop here. Most souks are open 10am-10pm daily except Fridays, when they open at 4pm. The monthly Dubai Flea Market runs the first Saturday of the month at al-Safa Park.
Global Village is a 111-day shopping extravaganza that coincides with the Jan-Feb Shopping Festival; with pavilions featuring artisans and cuisines from across the world, as well as performances and rides. Opens 4pm daily until midnight or 1am (Thursdays and Fridays) in theme park Dubailand. Until February 28, globalvillage.ae.
Haggle for textiles, gorgeous haberdashery and clothes, mostly from India, in the textile bazaar in Bur Dubai, just behind the waterfront off al-Fahidi Street. MOE has a great homewares strip - try Zara Home or drool over Marina's massive timber doors, glitzy lamps and richly woven cushions.
Fash & trash
Every luxury brand name is available in Dubai: the two biggest malls are their likely addresses or cruise the smaller Wafi, Bur Juman and Mercato malls. Check out Miri for chic, wearable Indian kaftans (MOE, Madinat Souk) and sleek Colombian swimwear and kaftans without the heavy spangle from OndadeMar (in Atlantis waterpark complex, Palm Jumeirah). Fashionistas of both sexes hang at the glitzy multi-brand Villa Moda (Dubai International Financial Centre's Gate Village) while smokin' local designer Essa is found in S*uce boutique in Dubai Mall and celebrated Lebanese designers Elie Saab (designer of Katy Perry's wedding dress) and Reem Acra (beloved of Eva Longoria Parker) are both stocked in Boutique 1 - MOE, The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR). The Walk at JBR is a slick little beachside promenade: check out euro-fash Zadig et Voltaire, Saks Fifth Avenue and Jumeirah's little Village Mall for Luxecouture for NY labels.
Gold. Shop hard in the traditional gold souk in Deira or, for a more refined air, visit the 200-odd shops in Dubai Mall's gold souk. Damas is one of the Middle East's leading jewellers, sprinkled across the city. Use it as an indicator of the top prices to pay.
The fine print
Dubai Tourism can supply maps and directories, (02) 9956 6620, definitelydubai.com. Dubai goes on a bargain hunt in the Dubai Shopping Festival, January 20-February 20 and again in the Summer Surprises, June 22- July 31.