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Beauty may be skin deep but if you believe Dubai’s Hollywood trained makeup artist Huda Kattan, the secret of it all is now inside a big, black vending machine waiting to be opened by the simple click of a button. From essentials for an on-the-go makeover to last-minute gift ideas and cosmetic bag-fillers, the beauty in a box concept packs it all. Just for an idea, eyelashes start from Dh69 while nails are priced at Dh85.

Where: Sunset Mall, Dubai


If you thought quality perfumes were a domain of high street retailers then think again. Sharjah company Sahar Al Sharq Perfumes or SSP as they call themselves on their vending machines sell perfumes for as low as Dh50. Buying a perfume here is easy but it’s choosing one from the scores on display that can make you break into a sweat.

Where: Lamcy Plaza, Dubai, Sahara Centre, Sharjah


Laptops, tablets, mobiles and even cameras. Any gadget that’s cool, handy and portable can be yours now through an automated vending machine installed last year by Sharaf DG at their Times Square store. The vending machine even has a robotic arm that moves the items around.

Until recently Crowne Plaza Dubai on Shaikh Zayed Road had a vending machine that let its customers rent out tablets for Dh40 for a day and iPads for Dh149. That service has, however, been discontinued. Where: Sharaf DG Times Square Mall


This one invariably makes it to almost every global list of unique vending machines for its novelty factor, even six years after it was first installed at the lobby of the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. From 10-gram 24k gold bars to Burj Khalifa ‘branded’ gold coins, there’s a range of products you could buy, all worth their weight in gold and packed in a gift box. Be rest assured, you pay according to market rates updated real-time every 10 minutes over an internet connection.

Where: Emirates Palace, 
Abu Dhabi, Dubai Mall

Health food

Most vending machines give out candies and chocolate bars, but not food that help you watch your weight. The vending machines run by Abu Dhabi company Yalla Eat Healthy, however, only dispense health food – from a power pak pudding to a teriyaki steak bar. What’s more, bottles of naturally pressed fruit juices replace cans of colas while crisps in packs are baked, not fried.

Where: Abu Dhabi Country Club and scores of other locations across the UAE

Reverse Vending

The RVM or Reverse Vending Machine may not be as popular yet but with bodies likes Bee’ah installing more of these last year to collect and recycle domestic light bulbs and batteries across the UAE, it could soon by the by-word of the future. RVMs can be found at several locations across the UAE including petrol stations. The machines scan and identify bottles and aluminium cans, then compact them for recycling and reward the feeders with gift vouchers that can be redeemed at participating retailers.

SIM cards

Got a visitor in town and need a mobile SIM card in a rush? Don’t worry, there’s a vending machine for that as well. Telecom service providers etisalat last year launched at their Al Kifaf office what is the UAE’s first interactive touchscreen-based “Smart Service” SIM card vending machines that can verify an Emirates ID and provide activated pre-paid SIM cards in minutes.

Where: Al Kifaf, near Dubai World Trade Centre Roundabout

Ten cool vending machine facts:

1. The first modern coin-operated vending machines were introduced in London, England in the early 1880s, dispensing postcards. The machine was invented by Percival Everitt in 1883 and soon became a widespread feature at railway stations and post offices, dispensing envelopes, postcards and notepaper.

2. Coin-operated machines that dispensed tobacco were being operated as early as 1615 in the taverns of England. The machines were portable and made of brass.

3. An English bookseller, Richard Carlile, devised a newspaper dispensing machine for the dissemination of banned works in 1822.

4. Simeon Denham was awarded British Patent no. 706 for his stamp dispensing machine in 1867, the first fully automatic vending machine.

5. The first vending machine in the US was built in 1888 by the Thomas Adams Gum Company, selling gum on New York City train platforms. The idea of adding games to these machines as a further incentive to buy came in 1897.

6. From the 1950s until well into the 1970s, vending machines were used at American airports to sell life insurance policies covering death, in the event that the buyer’s flight crashed.

7. In November 2013 online auto retailer Carvana opened the first car vending machine in the US located in Atlanta.

8. In late 2012, 22 public high schools in Philadelphia installed vending machines providing free condoms.

9. The €2 coin is similar in size to the 10 baht coin (worth only €0.25). As a result, many vending machines in the Eurozone will not accept €2 coins.

10. Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita, with about one machine for every 23 people.