Find yourself a tourist in UAE? Odds are, you’ll be ushered into one of the many souks that sell just about anything imaginable. (A souk or souq is a marketplace not unlike the local tiangge that often sells locally-made items. Just like with the tiangge, you must be a master haggler to get a good deal.) Particularly in Dubai, the popular souks or souk-style shops are the gold and spice ones, and then there’s the seasonal, carnival-style Global Village with its rides and various country-themed souk pavilions. A common attraction in these small shops, if not the spices, are the bottles and bottles of Middle Eastern perfume that come in ‘value sets’ and fancy packaging. Oh, and along with them you’ll get the annoying vendors who won’t stop yelling in your ear and following you around.
However infrequently I shop, when I do end up looking to buy something, the only quality I want out of a sales person is their product knowledge. Answer any and all of my questions, but that’s it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who cringes at the vendor who follows the customer around, matching his or her every step in any direction. Furthermore, I don’t appreciate the spiel of, “This one is good. Made from blah-blah flower. You buy the set? Very good deal!” every time I examine a bottle. That’s why I ended up crossing out perfume from my souq list, though some of them smelled downright fabulous.
If you really want to take home a bottle or five of the local perfume or eau de toilette, especially for giving away as souvenir items, here’s my top scent-shopping tip: Don’t ignore the supermarkets. Though Carrefour may not have the same exotic vibe as an open-air market, it’s definitely not lacking in perfumes and cosmetics. You can take as long as you’d like—undisturbed—choosing the scents that tickle your fancy, and the prices are significantly lower. While the souq may have more unique/unusual blends, the value sets offered at the grocery are truly a steal! Here’s what my mom got from Lulu Hypermarket, a grocery store a la Shopwise or Target that sells everything you can imagine: