Djemaa El Fna - Marrakech, Morocco
There is no end of markets and souks in Marrakech, and it can often be difficult to tell where one ends and another begins. But perhaps the most famous is Djemaa El Fna in the medina quarter of the city. A hectic melting pot of colours, flavours and fragrances, this huge square is home to souvenir stalls, snake handlers and vendors selling hand-crafted gems. As well as the array of classic Morrocan wares, from lamps to leather, there is no end of cafés serving up delicious lamb dishes and mint tea.
The Grand Bazaar - Istanbul, Turkey
Dating back to the 15th century, The Grand Bazaar is now one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions and is regarded as one of the first shopping malls ever created. One of the largest and oldest covered markets, there are 61 streets housing more than 3,000 shops, with close to 26,000 merchants selling an array of goods. Here visitors will discover handmade carpets, beautiful examples of Turkish silverware,
high-quality ceramics and leather goods. With so much on offer you are bound to discover a unique souvenir, though the art of haggling is very much alive in this ancient market and vendors can drive a hard bargain.
The Central Souk - Sharjah, UAE
One of the newer souks in the UAE, Sharjah’s Central Souk was opened in 1979 and is a hugely popular shopping location for both locals and visitors to the emirate.
Home to more than 600 shops, there is a variety of goods on offer, with everything from perfumes and cosmetics to classic cameras and antiques. Also known as the Blue Souk thanks to its beautiful blue tiles, it is considered as one of the best places in the country to buy Persian carpets and colourful kilims from
Afghanistan and Kashmir. There is also a wealth of Bedouin jewellery available, with talented craftsmen able to recreate designs based on photos or sketches.
Khan El-Khalili - Cairo, Egypt
This medieval-style mall is the most famous souk in the country, dating back to 1382. Throughout the narrow lanes and streets are a wealth of shops – many arranged around small courtyards – stocking everything from perfumes and fabrics to semi-precious stones and spices.
Smooth-talking merchants ensure this colourful market is always buzzing, though, for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle, the historic Naguib Mahfouz coffee shop is a must-visit. Known for its fez-wearing waiters and in-house shoeshine service, this small café provides a cultural experience that is simply not to be missed.
Muttrah Souk - Muscat, Oman
Said to be one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world, this labyrinth of narrow streets is packed with colourful shops and stalls selling jewellery, tubs of frankincense and old silver khanjars (daggers). Within the silver shops, there are bowls of coins from Portugal, China and imperial India, while on the waterfront is a packed fish market that has operated for centuries. Among the stalls selling antiques and textiles, you’ll also
discover plenty of shops selling perfumes where you can create your own fragrances.
Deira Gold and Spice Souk - Dubai, UAE
One of the oldest and most fascinating traditional souks in the country, visitors will discover a huge selection of gold jewellery, gemstones and spices from across the region.
The gold souk is said to be the largest in the world, with more than 700 shops selling an array of items crafted in a variety of carats. Although the spice market is not as big, the colours, scents and atmosphere is a must to experience, with mounds of fragrant herbs and spices spilling from large baskets. Sold by weight
and in packets, there is also a superb selection of nuts, oils and saffron available.