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Dubai is full of superlatives.

Dubai has the tallest hotel in the world, the iconic Burj Al Arab, shaped like a dhow's sail; three beautiful man-made, palm-shaped islands jutting out into the Arabian Gulf; "The World", consisting of man-made islands made into the shape of Planet Earth, which is located at least 2 miles off-shore; the largest marina in the world, Dubai Marina .......and HUGE, HIGH-CLASS, SHOPPING MALLS!!!

In fact, Dubai offers innumerable opportunities to indulge in a spot of retail therapy. It is a shopaholic's dream!

The rapid development that Dubai is experiencing is inextricably linked to shopping, and with each new development comes another shopping mall.

The retail sector is taken very seriously and its contribution to Dubai's economy is not underestimated.

Since it is an open port, with low import duties, retail prices are reasonable. Free of tax, many top brand-name products are cheaper than in the countries of origin.

The Dubai Shopping Festival, a month dedicated to consumerism, has taken place annually for over ten years, from late January to late February.

Shopping in Dubai mainly revolves around the malls, both big and small, but it is also worth checking out the ever-expanding number of independent stores, as there are some real gems.

Many of these stores are run by the large population of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent who have long set up home in Dubai.

Practicality plays a large part in the mall culture, and during the hotter summer months, the air-conditioned malls are oases of cool in a sweltering city.

The malls provide somewhere to walk, shop, eat, be entertained and to escape the heat for a few hours.

Most of the malls are superbly designed and immaculately clean, with marble floors, escalators, palms and beautiful fountains.

The bigger ones contain hundreds of shops, with top brand names and designer labels abounding.

The huge Mall of the Emirates, with its hundreds of stores and dozens of good restaurants and bars is particularly impressive.

Uniquely, it also surrounds an indoor ski-slope consisting of natural snow, flanked by Swiss-style chalets, so that people can view the skiing from the large windows of some of the bars in the mall.

It is particularly popular during the hottest months! It is almost surreal to view such a natural Alpine scene with the searing heat of the desert all around.

Probably the most interesting shopping experience in Dubai is to be obtained in the traditional Arab souks or souqs. A souq/souk is an Arab bazaar or market place.

The Gold Souq in Deira, not far from Dubai Creek, is a truly fascinating place, with windows laden with glistening gold jewellery made in the most lavish of designs. These ornate designs are particularly popular with members of the large Indian and Pakistani communities.

Dubai Spice Souq near the Gold Souq on the Deira, or east, side of Dubai Creek is also worth visiting. The aromas and fragrances are enthralling. Some would even call them overpowering. It is a heady mixture of herbs and spices sold out of large open sacks.

Cloves, cardamon and cinnamon are particularly popular, as is shisha tobacco for smoking through large, colourful shisha water pipes. What could be more Arabic?

Here you can also buy some very aromatic frankincense and myrrh to go with the gold from the gold souq!! Now, where have I heard of those three before?

Deira Perfume Souq is also nearby. Here you can purchase almost every scent and perfume under the sun, both local and international. Beware of copies of famous brand names!

In Deira Electronics Souq, you will find that digital camera or DVD player at a very competitive price, especially after a bit of haggling. Mind you, these shop-keepers are loathe to let a customer go without a sale once haggling starts.

A little further away, also within Deira, is the Deira Covered Souq, like an Arab department store, selling almost everything, but especially textiles, clothing and household items. It is near Al Sabkha bus station, which makes it very convenient for local people.

Across Dubai Creek, in Bur Dubai, is the Bur Dubai Souq, often called the Textile Souq or Cosmos Souq. It is in Ali Bin Abi Talib Street near an abra station on the Creek, which again makes it very convenient for locals.

Rolls of fabric in an amazing choice of patterns, colours and materials can be seen laid out here.

It is very popular with the large Indian and Pakistani communities that live in the area. Indian Hindu ladies dress very colourfully, in sharp contrast to the black garments worn by Muslim ladies.

Bur Dubai Souq is also a fascinating place for tourists to walk through and browse at their leisure. It is a world away from the pristine, marbled, 21st century shopping malls found in other parts of Dubai.

This contrast between old and new is what makes shopping in Dubai so fascinating and wonderful..............apart from low taxes,of course!!!