There’s no doubt about it: Dubai is a shopper’s paradise. It may not be high culture, but it is a high street. One could argue that all of the international fashions offered here are available in London, New York, or Milan, that Dubai actually isn’t any less expensive than elsewhere except for during a couple of festival periods, and that if you’re really looking for authentic Middle Eastern goods, Dubai is hardly at the center of production, and you’re better off elsewhere.
However, there’s something about shopping here that goes well beyond this being just a hot consumer market. I consider it more like a city of Shoppers Gone Wild, with an Arabian flair. Sure, this is the result of deft marketing, glitzy malls, duty-free prices, and wide consumer selection, but it’s also what you get when millions of people fly in from around the world each year to purchase items from every corner of the globe.
It sometimes seems the whole Dubai culture revolves around spending money. This is just as true for locals and expats as for visitors. Emiratis may be a minority in their own land, but you will see them en masse at the malls since shopping is a favorite family pastime. Young Emiratis, who are less likely to hang out in the licensed bars of Western hotels, tend to congregate in the malls. In summer, the heavily air-conditioned shopping centers are among the only places anyone wants to go since it’s as hot as an inferno outside. So, the whole population ends up shopping through the summer, particularly during Dubai Summer Surprises, with only a marginal decrease come fall. And then there’s Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), the apex of the year-round shopping frenzy that grows larger year by year, as people pour into Dubai from all directions to fill their bags, get some sun, and return home with more photos but diminished savings.