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A local's guide to shopping in Dubai

Dubai is famous for its shopping malls, behemoths packed with shops stocking high-end fashion brands, food courts, cinema complexes, skating rinks and, in the case of Mall of the Emirates, even an indoor ski slope. These mega malls attract tourists and locals alike with the promise of a shopper’s paradise – everything under one giant roof. But in recent years a number of passionate entrepreneurs have expanded the scope of shopping in Dubai, setting up homegrown businesses to cater to a growing community of discerning local customers.

There’s nothing wrong with malls, of course, but independent shopping in Dubai offers something completely different. Each has its own unique character and the fact that their owners usually run the businesses themselves offers a personal touch lacking in many chain stores. Independent shops can also bring a neighbourhood to life, fostering a sense of community.

Dubai’s Jumeirah neighbourhood is a good place to start your independent shopping trip. Make your way to Comptoir 102 at 102 Beach Road and prepare yourself for the day with a wonderful breakfast in its health-conscious café before browsing the carefully curated selection of interior design, homewares and fashion items in the adjoining boutique.

Your hunger satiated and your shopping bag weighed down with its first purchases of the day, take a leisurely stroll to 142 Beach Road, home of Bambah. Owned by Maha Abdul Rasheed, Bambah made a name for itself as a vintage boutique, before launching its own collection of vintage-inspired clothing. In the same area, you’ll find The Zoo Concept, owned by Maha’s brother, Hussein Abdul Rasheed. With the tagline “Where everyone comes to play”, The Zoo Concept sells an eclectic range of novelty items, clothing and artworks, and is the ideal place to pick up a quirky gift.

Now the proud owner of a Super Mario figurine, a sumo wrestler egg cup or a knuckleduster mug courtesy of The Zoo Concept, head over to Wasl Square, next to Safa Park, where you’ll find numerous cafés, restaurants and shops, including local fashion and lifestyle brand S*uce’s The Design Shop, which sells a range of gifts and pieces for the home. S*uce now has eight outlets in the UAE: fashion boutiques in The Dubai Mall, The Village Mall and Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall; Saucette (children’s fashion) and S*uce Rocks (jewellery), both located in Jumeirah’s The Galleria Mall; S*uce On-Sea (beachwear) in Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR); S*uce In The Hood (urban fashion) on City Walk; and The Design Shop. All of them are worth visiting, if you have the time.

Next stop, Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road, home to The Movement. Run by husband and wife team Rooman Latif and Julie Audette, The Movement sells a range of vintage-inspired bicycles and accessories. Its owners, who are on a mission to promote cycling to the masses in the UAE, are typical of the passionate entrepreneurs behind the recent spate of independent shops in Dubai. Whether bicycles are your bag or not, it’s worth spending 10 minutes or so exploring Dubai Garden Centre. Under its large roof, you’ll also discover Roseleaf Café, used bookshop House of Prose, Dan’s Flower Boutique and several other small retailers, as well as the plants, flowers, outdoor furniture and assorted gardening paraphernalia one would expect to find in a garden centre. Dubai Garden Centre also hosts regular events, including the Saturday Farmers Market.

Next to the Garden Centre is Tribe Dubai, a recently opened home décor studio stocking a range of ethically sourced and sustainable items created by artists and designers from around the world and curated by Australian designer, artist and stylist Jo England.

You might not expect Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) to offer too many independent shops, but it is home to Momentum, Dubai’s only vintage watch shop. Run by watch aficionado Tariq Malik, Momentum stocks classic timepieces ranging in price from US$1,000 to more than US$100,000.

Finally, you must visit the Ripe Food & Craft Market. Ripe’s numerous markets are held in different locations across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, depending on the season, so make sure to check the website before you set off. Whether you’re visiting in the steamy apex of summer or during the cooler winter months, the Ripe markets are perfect for independent shopping in Dubai.

Ripe itself specialises in organic fruit and vegetables sourced from local farms, and has its own small farm shop in Dubai’s Umm Sequiem neighbourhood, as well as offering a delivery service, but the company’s owner, Becky Balderstone, is also committed to supporting Dubai’s growing community of independent business owners, and many small, local retailers have stalls at the weekly markets. There are also plenty of stalls offering a wide array of food and drink and a lively family-orientated atmosphere.


Written by Gareth Rees

Image credits: Bambah owner Maha Abdul Rasheed © Rebecca Rees Photography, Comptoir 102 © Rebecca Rees Photography, The Movement © The Movement, Tribe Dubai © Tribe Dubai