Golden fixtures, doorknobs, phones, or any other everyday object made of the precious metal is nothing new in the United Arab Emirates. So it should come as no surprise that one of the biggest gold markets in the world is in Dubai, the country’s largest city.
Known as a souk, this sprawling bazaar of gold traders, diamond merchants, and jewelers loops through a series of galleries, covered at the top but still retaining the flavor of an open-air market. What is offered is scrupulously regulated by the UAE government, ensuring authenticity—something mostly lacking from the street vendors outside.
What is not regulated is the price, which makes haggling an integral part of the experience. If it’s true that this is the market where skilled hagglers can find the best deals in the world—not only on gold, but on platinum, silver, and gems as well—there are over 300 outlets to test the hypothesis.
At its inception in the early 1900s there were only a handful of local jewelers. It grew considerably in the 1940s when new trade policies encouraged Iranian and Indian entrepreneurs to set up shop, but it was the oil boom of the 1970s that made the Dubai Gold Souk the icon it is today.
The market has undergone a process of expansion and gentrification through the years, but it has managed to retain the charm and atmosphere of an Arabian souk. It’s said that no less than 10 tons of gold are spread across the vendors on any given day—a claim that’s tough to prove, but hard to dispute.