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Souks, Dubai

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United Arab Emirates's insider take:

The open-air markets lining the creek near the dhow port are a living museum of Dubai's trading history, and it's possible to hit all of them in a few hours. Souks are usually open between 9 am and 1 pm and 4 and 10 pm, and are most atmospheric in the evening. Start off at the Bur Dubai Souk, also known as the textile souk, near the Dubai Museum. Among bolts of shiny synthetic and sequined fabric and tailors who run up long house dresses for local women, you'll find pashminas of varying quality starting at about $10, plain and brightly patterned premade caftans, and intricately embroidered Indian-style sandals—a pair will set you back about $8. Then jump on an abra, or water taxi, across the creek to the small spice souk next to the Old Baniyas Road abra station. Here look for saffron from Iran, ostrich-oil rheumatism tonic from Saudi Arabia, Bahreini "555" rose hair oil, honey and lemon hair-removal paste, and other natural ingredients (often hilariously and suggestively misspelled) for personal grooming. Venture farther into the wood-covered gold souk, where Indian merchants offer massive 22-carat wedding sets from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the subcontinent, as well as 18-carat Western pieces; prices are negotiable according to the amount of craftsmanship but never fall below the day's international gold rate. Damas is one of the most reputable stores, although its prices are a bit higher. After bargaining, ask for a further discount if you pay in cash.—Updated by Susan Hack

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