With temperatures hovering just below 50 degrees centigrade, this is an odd time to talk about the various open-air markets in Dubai – unless you’re shopping around for sunstroke.
But to misquote, if summer comes, can winter be far behind? From October to March, the sun still shines (on most days, hello cloud-seeding), temperature stays in the cool early 20s and there’s a pleasant breeze. It’s when everyone is outdoors 24/7, and naturally that means eating, drinking, shopping and strolling outdoors too – all the things you take for granted in other parts of the world.
Over the last few years, I’ve seen many different markets pop up on my Facebook feed. Do they live up to the hype? Here’s a quick look at a few I’ve been lucky enough to go to, a few of my finds and hauls, and my thoughts on what experiences and memories are worth bagging and which ones you should trash.
And oh, one thing to remember is that none of these markets – except the flea market – is especially cheap, so definitely go after payday!
This is arguably the most famous and nicest of the markets, hosted by Ripe, an organization that sources and sells fresh organic produce. The market itself is built around its vegetable and produce shop, however there’s a lot more than just carrots and greens on offer.
The edition I visited (admittedly a couple of years ago) was the outdoor, morning one usually held in Zabeel Park on Fridays. There’s also a Night Market at the Pond Park in Barsha and an indoor version in summer.
Laidback glam. Pretty white marquees, bunting and trestle tables, all arranged around a path in the park. Folks lounging on blankets under trees, while littler folks throw Frisbees around.
An abundance of food stalls, a couple of food trucks, kiosks selling interesting merchandise, music and plenty of winter sunshine. Things to buy ranged from jewellery to clothing, accessories and tchotchkes.
You won’t miss:
Ripe is on the pricier side, with most of the food stalls organised by the trendier cafés in town. A lot of the merchandise is expensive.
Truckers DXB – Food Truck JAM
As the name suggests, this a food truck market. Truckers travels across the emirates and pops up in different venues, but I went to the one where the festival is parked more often than not – The Emirates Golf Club.
Slumming it, champagne-set style. Think pretty sunsets, expansive green lawns, fairy lights, well-dressed folk, colourful trucks, stalls of knick-knacks and magic in the air.
A host of food trucks covering a range of cuisines. There were Indian, Italian, Asian, Mexican, Arabic and Fast Food choices when I went. Plus shisha and beer for those who were so inclined. The food was all mostly affordable and well-made, whatever we tasted at least. The ambience was amazing, with several musical acts stepping on the makeshift stage that evening, as the crowd sat on upturned packing crates arranged in rows.
You won’t miss:
Truckers is not easily accessible by public transport, especially when it’s deep in the heart of the Golf Club. You’ll need to drive in for sure. Also it can get a bit chilly, so don’t forget to wrap up.
An indoor crafts fair, Arte is the place to be if you’re looking for something unique for yourself or your home. Dubai is a great place to shop but unfortunately, most of the wares are either high street or designer. There really isn’t a whole lot of mom-and-pop stores or independent labels of the sort you’ll find elsewhere. Arte is really the best way to fix that.
Boho and crafty, with the effect unfortunately being a little diluted by the event’s location within a mall.
Tons and tons! There are stalls dedicated to scarves, clothing, art, handmade curios, preserves, baked goods and even, cloth sanitary napkins. My favourite seller was Audrey’s Cat, which stocks vintage jewellery, especially brooches.
At the end of an hour at the Arte Market, I was poorer by a few hundred dirhams and weighed down by a hand-painted tray, homemade granola, a box of blondies (white chocolate brownies), one bottle of an amazingly yummy sun-dried tomato spread, and a stunning Lucite brooch. It’s a hard life, that’s for sure.
You won’t miss:
It’s not strictly outdoors, and you’ll find yourself buying a lot more than you need!
Fashion Swap Shop
This seemed to be an interesting concept when I saw it online, so a friend and I decided to check it out. We went when the fair was right next to us at Media One, at one of its open air restobars. To explain the concept, there is a swap rail where you can leave the clothes you want to donate. You’ll then be given tokens, one for each piece you give. You can use a token to pick up an item of clothing that someone else has left on the rail.
A chic but rather generic affair. Overhyped.
Other than the swap rail, there are a few sellers of handmade items and clothing. I got a pretty collar from a Turkish lady whose wares were made by her sister. There was a beauty salon that does your hair for free as well.
You won’t miss:
Maybe it was just that particular night, but the swap rail was more of a flop rail. For one thing, people trickle in, which means that at any given time the rail is rather bare. Once you’ve handed in your items, you’ll need to hang around on the sidelines as people come in with their products. You will also need to be pretty quick to jump in, go through the 3 or 4 new additions that each person brings and take your pick. I wasn’t unhappy with the things I got, but unlike the flea market, there really isn’t that much to choose from. There’s a lot of waiting time, which you can kill with a little tipple and finger food like we did, but it’s still not really my glass of wine cup of tea.
Other than these four fairs, I’ve already written about the Dubai Fleamarket here. Box Park is a great open air venue too, in winter. There are a few that I haven’t seen, and by next winter, there’s sure to be more. Until then, I’ll just sit here in the AC and plan away…