Posted by: travelrat | July 8, 2011

Dubai: Spice and Gold.

Dubai: 12th February 2011

We got off the ‘abra’ on the northern side of Dubai Creek, and walked a few yards to the Spice Market. Here, in a rather old-fashioned looking covered arcade, the spice merchants sold their wares. Pictures can do it no justice … you have to visit it to breathe in the atmosphere, and the exotic aroma.

Not only spices are on sale here. A couple of times, I got approached by itinerant vendors. Did I want to buy a watch? Genuine Rolex? Or, some Viagra? But, they weren’t too much of a nuisance; a polite ‘No, thank you’ was sufficient.

(I often wonder if anyone ever got mugged for a ‘knock-off’ Rolex?)

I did buy some spices, though … how could I not? I love paella, and here was saffron at a fraction of the price it is at home. The stallholder took it from a huge container that made me think that somewhere in the Emirates, there’s a field about the size of Yorkshire, full of crocuses.

At home, so much saffron in one place would probably be surrounded by security guards. But, there were none; neither were there any in the nearby Gold Souk. You could just wander into any shop and look around, even though most of them had enough gold jewellery on display to buy every house in our street, and still leave some change.

Most Middle Eastern cities have a Gold Souk. Gold is an excellent investment and, while it’s available in bars or ingots, most men prefer to see it decorating the ladies in their lives.

Again, it’s in an old-fashioned arcade, this time, cruciform, which made it easier for the guide. She arranged to meet us in the centre of the cross … ‘… and, if you come out into the street, you’ve gone the wrong way!’

On the way back to our ship, I spotted a new, modern building with a sign outside, saying ‘New Gold Suq’. I really hope that some of the trade will remain in the old Suq, for I feel that much of the old Dubai will be lost if they all move there.


  1. Lovely pics, Keith. We love spices too and can’t resist buying and taking pics. Do you think that was genuine saffron?

  2. That top pic is a bag of crocuses, right? Then I guess it must be real saffron.Wow!

    • The saffron is the container in the ‘north-east’ of the picture. Not sure about the flower heads … Lorraine thought they may be used fror fragrancing (like lavender) rather than cooking??

    • The purple flowers are roses, not crocuses. The bag next to it in not saffron, rather it is sunflower pistols. Saffron will be a darker orange, stringy, and not a feathery. You probably wont find saffron out in such large quantities, but they have saffron at most of the markets in glass, covered dishes.

      • Hi, Kristen!

        Thanks for the heads-up; that does make sense. It does look darker than the saffron I bought; I just assumed it was from a different kind of crocus??

        Certainly, I thought it would take a helluva lot of crocuses to produce so much saffron …. ??

      • Sorry, not sunflower, it is hibiscus. There is NO saffron pictured here. There is a lot of fake saffron out there, buyer beware

  3. Hi Keith,
    I love the smell of the spice markets they are unbelievable, we don’t have any really large spice markets in OZ or none that I am aware of. The gold markets are unbelievable, the amount of beautiful jewelry you can find without looking to hard is to die for. 🙂
    Great photo’s that really do give you a bit of a feel for the place.

  4. Hey travelrat! I’m learning as well. The saffron in water trick is exactly that. The color should leave the threads gradually, not immediately, and the water should turn pale yellow, not orange. The threads also shouldn’t dissolve when rubbed between your fingers after they soak, plus it should smell like saffron 🙂 I was just at the spice souk two days ago and almost bought saffron; I realize now it was fake. Happy travels!

    • The paella I made with it turned out OK, and my Spanish visitors didn’t say anything so I assume the stuff I bought was genuine …

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