HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS: THE MAJLIS GALLERY
Founded sometime in the mid-70s, The Majlis Gallery is Dubai's first and foremost purveyor of indie creativity. The word 'Majlis' is Arabic for a hospitable meeting place, and the gallery is just that - a warm, cozy haven for people to stroll through on those still afternoons.
You won't be hurried into buying anything here, and you can wander from room to room at leisure, taking in the sights and smells of the old building and all the paintings residing within it. The calm vibe is a perfect antidote to the mayhem ensuing outside on Dubai's harried streets.
There's a large tree in the middle of the Majlis' courtyard, casting gorgeous shade on the artefacts resting below. I find this really charming, and maybe you will too.
Don't pay high (tourist-) prices!
There are many shops around Dubai selling souvenirs, sheeshas (water pipes), Arabic arts & crafts and so on. There's the Arabian Court in Deira City Centre, and also the Dubai Duty Free (in the departure hall).
But if you don't want to pay "tourist prices", visit the area called Karama.
It may not look like much compared to the flashy & modern shopping malls, but there are numerous little shops on either side of the street where you can bargain for discounts to your heart's content!
Welcome to the Karama shopping experience.
You won't see this on your Emirates Airlines in-flight video, but most people on their way to Dubai will know about this bastion of counterfeit goods nonetheless. For years, tourists & residents alike have made a beeline for the fake designer clothes, bags, watches & of course souvenirs that adorn many of the stores' jumbled shelves.
TIP Women: dress modestly, as shop owners are Indians/Pakistanis and you may get more attention than you're comfortable with. The shop salesmen can be quite annoying, trying to lure you into their shops, but don't worry: they would never actually touch you.
Competition is fierce, which is why you can really get the cheapest prices here! It's great for souvenirs, Arabic reminders for back home & some holiday clothes: fake t-shirts, shorts, sports clothing, handbags & real brand shoes can be found here for the best prices in town.
TIP: If you are looking for fake watches, note that most shop-owners will deny that they have them, as Dubai Police has been raiding the little shops trying to put an end to this practice. But if you gain his trust, he will take you into a back corner of the shop & show you his hidden stash of fakes.
You can also buy Pashmina Shawls for very little money, but compare the quality before you buy. --> (see my Tourist Trap Tip about Pashminas)
If you've been sampling the wonderful flavours of smoking sheesha and don't want to miss it when you're back home: this is the place to purchase your very own waterpipe, coals & tobacco!* They even come in their own padded carrying-case, so they don't get damaged during transport.
Many people will also pass you by, whispering "you want DVD sir/madam?". These pirated DVDs (mostly from Asia) are cheap (between AED 10 - 30), but you never know what kind of quality you get. Bargain, bargain and don't give up until you get the lowest price; almost anything goes!
TIP: For souvenirs at best prices, I recommend TEBSA Trading... ask for Rashid. He'll give you a good deal.
One of my favourite shops for fantastic handbags, wallets, etc. is JANVIN trading.
UPDATE May 2009: Do you really still think that Dubai's malls are great for shopping? Actually, it's a rip-off! Click here: http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090509/NATIONAL/705089803/0/FRONTPAGE
TIP: After you're done with shopping, have lunch/dinner at the YAHALA Restaurant (see my seperate restaurant tip!)
Opening Hours: 10:00am - 01:30pm & 04:30pm - 10:00pm, closed on Friday mornings.
Big Bus Tours
Its also in Dubai, The Big Bus tour has audio commentary as you go around dubai. 2 lines - red and blue. Blue along the coast and red in the centre. Everything covered and will cost you about £20 for 24 hours.
Great views over the quirky ocean projects
Head for the bar/restaurant at Level 27, which is more like a conventional level 54 (as each level represents suites arranged over 2 floors!).
The wrap-around views are lovely, as you enter you see The Palm Jumeirah, through to the World Islands, and then around the front you see the beach & Jumeirah Beach Hotel (a sister hotel), and the city of Dubai spread further out in front.
Service is flawless, the hostess leads you into the room with a warm smile & greeting. From here on it's five star all the way. In fact the warm greetings begin as you report at the concierge.
As you enter this hotel, you'll see the high open atrium right in front of you, with it's fountains. On each side there are escalators, with massive aquariums at both ends. Nice touch, reminding you that you are in fact in/on the ocean: this hotel is created on a man-made island & accessed via a causeway!
Before dining here I'd suggest you opt for high tea, choosing the 1600 hours slot. That way you get to see the Palm & World Islands in daylight, then as the sun sets you see the lights in the city coming on, and the beautifully lit Burj khalifa in the distance.
The dining does not start till 1900 hours, and being located towards the front, you won't see the Palm or World Islands, just the city shimmering with evening lights.
Of course, you can have drinks in the bar, but the Islands would not be visible as they are not fully developed & not inhabited yet :-( The thing you would see the the grand Atlantis Hotel, standing proudly on the outermost fringe of Palm Jumeirah. Your experience begins with a champagne and some canapes.
Next you are offered tea, coffee, etc.
Then out comes the multi-tiered plates housed in a Burj Al Arab shaped stand. Cool touch!
Gorgeous cakes & finger sandwiches, plus really cool bites of salmon, crab, etc.
I liked the apple seed caviar offered as a palate cleanser before they bring the scones out.
Even after this you are offered beverages. Go for the tasty iced tea served in a long glass.