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Even before the emergence of modern air conditioned malls, and modern currency was  minted, people already engaged in trade. Livestock, crops, textile, perfumes, spices, and so much more were traded with gold and silver in stalls outside of the city walls, with merchants showcasing their wares to both passing travelers and city dwellers.

Known as “souks” in most parts of the Middle East, these trappings of trade had prominently established themselves as a staple in every community. While most of them are permanent fixtures in small and big citi es, there are also seasonal souks that exist for a short period of time for fairs and festivals.

It is quite amazing that through the years, modernization and development have left these souks and bazaars – if not untouched – alive. They have their own charm that you simply cannot find elsewhere. These souks have paved way for the modern shopping malls that we know of today, taking a hint that one way to attract a crowd is to make sure that your store stands out – understanding fully that first impressions not only last, but also influence traffic and subsequently, sales.

In the UAE alone, there are several souks:

Gold Souks – When you visit the gold souk, don’t forget to wear your sunglasses as the glittering store fronts will surely strain your eyes. You will also realize that golden armors do not just exist in movies.

Spice Souks – with the air filled with the heady aroma of exotic spices from around the word, this part of the souk is indeed a sensory delight as it will not only tickle your olfactory senses, but is also a sight to behold with its wide selection of spices in various colors and texture!

Old Souk (Dubai) – can be accessed by cruising along the Dubai Creek in small old fashioned boats called Abras, the Old Souk houses mostly display items, RTWs and textiles made of various materials – from the usual wool and cotton to the more luxurious silk and cashmere.

Souk Madinat Jumeirah (Dubai) – With an amazing view of the Burj Al Arab, Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a more modern and higher end version of the souks in the old parts of Dubai. Air conditioned and lined with restaurants where you can wine or dine or both, it is one of the places that you must visit in Dubai for that Instagram-worthy photos – do it for the ‘gram!

Camel Souk (Al Ain) – Yes, you read that right – camel souk. True to its name, it is here that you will find camels lined up for auction. It’s the only one and probably the last one of its kind in the UAE.

Carpet Souk (Abu Dhabi) – If you are looking for authentic Persian and Afghan rugs, handmade or machine woven carpets, this souk is the place for you.

Although the comfort of the shopping malls and supermarkets are quite inviting, the history and old world allure of the souks reel in locals and tourists alike. With their vast and colorful offerings of eclectic and unique pieces, souks are an institution in every culture.

So next time you go somewhere, visit not just the metropolis, but also the old part of the town where these hidden gems lie.