The traditional Arabic marketplaces, also known as souks, are popular among tourists as well as residents of Abu Dhabi. The atmosphere of a souk is quite unique as it retains the dynamic and colorful character of an ancient Middle Eastern marketplace. If you would like to experience the exotic smells and sights of a souk, here’s a list of some significant Abu Dhabi and Al Ain markets.
The Souk at World Center
Considered one of the most popular souks in Abu Dhabi, this souk is located in the old central market, adjacent to World Trade Center Mall. Dating back to 1968, the souk was renovated in 2013 and fortunately retained its old-world charm and bustling character. Things to shop at this traditional Abu Dhabi market include local herbs, spices, perfumes, artworks, opulent handcrafts, carpets, cashmere fabrics, handmade bags and gold pieces.
The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri
With an area of over 60,000 sqm, this souk is located along the water canal at Shangri-La Abu Dhabi, dotted with waterfront restaurants and cafés. Architecturally, it is one of the most elegant souks in Abu Dhabi with a mix of Arabian and Venetian interiors. Dozens of brand outlets and smaller shops sell perfumes, cosmetics, clothing, home décor, shoes, artwork, flowers and more.
The Gold Souk
Even though the Gold Souk is located inside the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre, it still has the ambiance of an Arabic souk. Gold jewelry here is in abundant supply, whether you are looking for classic or ornate designs or wish to create a custom piece. The many stores sell gold in 18, 21, 22 or 24 carats with or without precious stones and gems. Whatever you do, don’t forget to bargain!
The Mina Souks
In the Mina Zayed Port area lies a number of different souks such as the Carpet Souk with about 100 shops selling carpets, rugs and cushions. The Fruit and Vegetable Souk sells exotic fruits and vegetables at cheaper prices than elsewhere in Abu Dhabi. You can find coconuts from Thailand, forty-five varieties of dates, melons from Jordan, potatoes from Turkey and lots of quality fresh produce. The Plant Souk features indigenous indoor and outdoor plants and pots at a reasonable rate. At the Fish Market fresh catch arrives in the morning which is when you should go. You can have your fish or seafood cleaned and filleted on site and even grilled at the small stands across the market. In all of these local markets bargaining is expected.
Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Market
Located in the heart of the city, near Business Bay, is this fresh produce market with a large variety of organic fruits and vegetables straight from the farms at reasonable prices. The market also features several options for a bite to eat.
Markets in Al Ain
Souq Al Qattara is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Al Ain. On the palm-lined road linking Al Ain’s Al Qattara and Al Jimi oases, this hidden gem sells traditional handicrafts.
Al Ain Camel Market is an active livestock market, located about 15 km from downtown Al Ain. Trading of camels takes place in the morning, and visitors are more than welcome to walk around in the dusty, noisy chaos and get up close with the camels for sale. It is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience and family-friendly too. Brace yourselves to see some intense haggling among the locals. Please note that women should dress conservatively in the market area.
Souk Al Zafarana is the new home of Al Ain’s old souk and features Mubdia Village, a market exclusively for women and staffed by female shopkeepers. From fruits and vegetables to traditional garments, souvenirs, incense, spices, henna, oud and Arabian coffee pots, this is a versatile marketplace.
Souk Al Bawadi and Souk Al Qaws
Two outdoor markets, Souk Al Bawadi and Souk Al Qaws, are located next to the Bawadi Mall in Al Ain. Set in unique architecture, the first has more of a heritage feel, with over 50 shops selling traditional items and souvenirs, whereas the second features some 40 services outlets.