To many people, Dubai is defined by its massive malls, its super-tall buildings and its perpetual glitz and glamour.
There’s always a shop on sale, and the AC is on full blast, so it’s no wonder we all turn into mall rats before long. But there’s more to Dubai than that.
At the Dubai Flea Market this Friday (August 7), the bargains were cool even if the temperatures weren’t.
We got to Zabeel Park just before 6 PM, when the sale opens, and found that the crowd had already begun to mill around the tables.
Let me quickly describe the scene before me.
Tables were arranged on either side of the tree-lined pathways of the park. Rows and rows of hangers full of clothes were lined up everywhere. It was like waving a red flag at a bull – only in this case, the flags were chevron printed, trimmed with lace or in the colour of the year, Marsala.
There were also home appliances, books, shoes, bags, jewellery and stuffed toys. I spotted a stall selling Biriyani, and an ice cream cart. But clothes more than anything else.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ware. Most of the pre-loved clothes, shoes and bags were remarkably free of obvious damage and had either been used minimally or not at all. No one had used the occasion as an excuse to get rid of their grandma’s knickers. Dubai being trend conscious, most of the things displayed were very much in fashion.
By all means, bargain. However the prices, which range from 5 AED to 25 AED for most pre-loved items, are low already, so don’t overdo it. Where else will you find a silk Banana Republic dress for 20 AED?
Carry change. Because – well, see above.
Don’t let the low prices turn you into a maniac. Stick to your style aesthetic, never mind how tempting the bargains. Ask yourself if you would buy the same thing if it were available full-price in a mall. If the answer is yes, pick it up.
And to contradict myself, experiment. Even if something you buy ends up not being quite right, you haven’t thrown away too much money. So that fur collared shrug or that lace backed dress you may otherwise stay away from? Pick it up!
Sizes can be tricky when you can’t try on the clothes. The labels are no help either, since these clothes are from all over the world and different sizing standards apply. Besides, one woman’s Medium is another woman’s XS. It may help to carry a measuring tape along instead of relying on your eyes alone. I didn’t carry one, but my guesstimates paid off because I stuck to silhouettes that I knew would work for me.
Move fast. Linger too long at one table, digging deep into every carton, and you could miss interesting stuff at other tables. There’s so much stuff that you’re never going to be able to view or evaluate anyway.
Be polite. The sellers are friendly and on Friday, they were smiling and helpful even in the 40 + heat. Considering how crowded it got, things were pretty orderly. Don’t jostle, don’t drop things on the floor, snatch them out of people’s hands, and so on.
Strike up conversations. The sellers are interesting people. I’m not generally chatty, but the bohemian vibe of the market and the sheer riot of colours calls for it. Some of the sellers have Instagram accounts or websites, and this can give you more leads.
Carry a stole with you. When you’re done rummaging, spread it on the grass and cool off in the shade. Now’s the time to catch your breath, compare purchases with your crew and crow over every Dirham and deal you scored.
As the cliché goes, when you get home, your shopping bags will be full of memories too.