The Gold Souk – Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Fort Knox on Sale – Arabia’s Gold Rush

You’ve got to see this place to believe it. Even die-hard nonshoppers must visit Dubai’s Gold Souk as part of their cultural experience if not for a shopping spree. Probably the largest such market in Arabia – and that says a lot, given the local pen­chant for bauble buying – this gold souk has held out after most souks have gone the way of the modern boutique-filled shopping mall.

Even seasoned souk-goers of the Middle East are unprepared for the sheer size and razzle-dazzle of it. The largest pieces here are not always designed with women in mind; some of the most elabo­rate pieces are often crafted for men, children, or the home. Expect to find ornaments in every imaginable design and form, with weight (and price) never seeming to be an issue.

Of the seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai was the only one to become wealthy through trade rather than oil (although the discovery of oil in the 1960s sped up the modernization of an already booming country). Bearing in mind that trade was originally built on gold smug­gling, it is not surprising that an anything-goes spirit of capitalism flourishes here. And here’s the best news: The prices are actually reasonable.


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