Dubai: It’s being billed as “12 months of DSF” as year-round bargains and haggling marks Dubai’s traditional Deira souq, said shoppers, tourists and traders.
DSF, or Dubai Shopping Festival, is an annual month-long event featuring sales at dozens of swanky malls and hundreds of outlets. It’s mostly held from January to February in shopping centres and main street shops.
However, the heritage souq in Deira is said to be largely unaffected by DSF, with business as usual.
A key difference is that souq shops, unlike big international brands in malls, generally don’t have fixed prices and so don’t offer “25 to 75 per cent off” type DSF sales.
Products there are usually different too — loose spices fresh off the boat from, among other countries, Iran and India; unbranded essential oil perfumes from the Gulf, incense, traditional garments and textiles, souvenirs, cottage-industry handicrafts and much more.
“I went to the malls, and they’re decked out for DSF. And I’ve just been around the souq, it’s a different world out here. There’s so much culture. The prices are good, but I wish they were lower. Well, at least you can haggle your way down in the souq,” said Monica, a “just-arrived” tourist from the US state of California.
Another American tourist, Mike, who only gave his first name, added: “I don’t know too much about DSF but I’ve mainly experienced it in the malls. Out here, in the souq, you get a different feel. I’ve just come here from India, and it’s a bit like the traditional markets there. You certainly get a sense of old Dubai, it’s great.”
Traders said while DSF attracts tourists to Dubai, those heading to souqs are “not heavy shoppers.”
“DSF is not a profit or loss deal for us, ours is a different world,” said an Iranian salesman of Yousuf Abdul Rahman Al Awazi Trading, a large wholesale and retail chain in the market there.
“People who come here are mainly tourists looking for culture, not shopping deals. That’s not to say we don’t offer good prices — our prices are low and quality is high. But there’s no DSF-type atmosphere as such.
“Usually in DSF, people go to the brands in malls, and then they pick up something they want. Here in the souq, you don’t even know our [shops] name — you just see something you like and buy it.”
Another trader, a Pakistani shopkeeper from Mir International, said: “We don’t witness DSF fanfare specifically here, but it’s like DSF for 12 months in the sense you can haggle and negotiate what you want — both shoppers and sellers can.
“It’s far removed from the DSF glamour, raffles and prizes in malls and modern parts of town.”
Meanwhile, Abdul Reza Rashid, a wholesaler, added: “DSF is good, it brings in more tourists to the souq as well. Some of them will become shoppers. But we’re getting the same business before and after DSF.
“Our [souq] customers are looking for hard-to-find items, everyday household items or souvenirs. It’s a different look and feel from DSF. You won’t find many DSF stickers and sales here, but business is good. We’re the oldest market in Dubai.”
Dubai Creek, the city’s historic trade lifeline, is just a stone’s throw away from the Deira souq. Dhows load and unload goods between the wharf and the souq, only separated by four lanes of traffic.