Dubai is often called the “city of gold” due to its meteoric rise to wealth in a single generation, but there could be another reason: as of 2014, 40 per cent and US$75 billion of the global gold trade flowed through Dubai. Much of it goes through the Gold Souk, the largest of the city’s jewellery markets with over 380 retailers.
The price of gold here is determined by three factors: the weight or carat of the gold, the design, and the labour needed to craft the piece, explains Badran. While the carat and weight prices are government-regulated, everything else is negotiable.
Buying gold in Dubai is popular because labour is cheaper and, up until last year, there were no taxes. The new value-added tax has hit Dubai’s economy hard, and the government is considering doing away with it for tourists.
The primary consumers of the precious metal are Indians and Emiratis, says Badran, hence the Gold Souk.
“It is traditional to buy gold in some cultures, for special occasions such as weddings and births, and they do not stop buying because of price changes,” Bhavin Sagar, the owner of Shantilal, a family-run business that is over 50 years old, told The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
For Emiratis, gold often functions as part of a dower or “bride price”, by which the husband and his family pay the bride and her family for the marriage. The dower is also an Indian custom, except in this case, the bride’s family is the giver. Wedding gold suites can get so elaborate and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Gold Souk is also where the world’s largest gold ring is on display. The 21-carat Najmat Taiba weighs 141lb and costs around US$3 million, and attracts a lot of visitors wanting selfies.
Because Dubai has a long reputation as a commercial and trading port dating back to 1800, the souks of Deira are where the “story of Dubai started”, Dr Hasan Al Naboodah, an Emirati historian, told The National.
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