Anyone visiting Dubai that is looking for a unique shopping experience needs to visit the famous Karama District, located near Dubai Business and Commercial District of Bur Dubai. Karama’s shops offer great deals on Pashmina Shawls, Tableclothes, and Pillow Coverings, and those that love to bargain this is the place, as you can really practice your skills with the merchants here. But, it’s the shopping behind the closed doors that people really go to Karama for. My friends and I recently took a shopping trip to Karama. If I had not been already educated on how much of the business was performed here, I probably would have been quite nervous when a small Pakistani man approached us and asked if we were “interested in brand names”. When we gave him a positive response, he told us to follow him, as he walked us several blocks, down some side streets. Had I not been with several women (a large enough group, that I felt the safety in numbers), and had not been aware of the “business conducted behind closed doors”, I’m sure that I would have run the other way. We finally arrived at what looked like an apartment building, where we got into an elevator and took a ride up several floors. When we got off, he walked us down the hall to an apartment, where he made a special knock on the door. A few seconds later, the door opened and our escort ushered us in. Yes, it was an apartment, but it was stocked with designer label items from floor to ceiling in every room. From designer handbags, wallets, and cellphone cases, to designer watches and designer sunglasses, they had it all! All the top designer houses were represented, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Chloe, Prada, Versace, Christian Dior, Baby Phat, Juicy Couture, Rolex, Monte Blanc, and yes, even Hermes. You would have thought you were in Couture Heaven!
As we went around asking “how much?” the typical response was “No worries ma’am, pick what you want, and I give you good deal.” So, it is just best to pick out everything you are interested in, and put in a grouping, for them to price out. Keeping in mind, the more you buy, the better your bargaining power. As you begin to wrap up, allow yourself plenty of time for negotiating, at this is an art form, and the merchants are skilled craftsmen in this area. If you are not one who is skilled at bargaining, it is best to make sure that you bring along a girlfriend or family member that is, even if it is old Aunt Martha that you can stand being in the room for more than 10 minutes with, as it will be worth the savings! On average, you can expect to get about a 40 – 45% discount from their originally quoted price, but that does require time and some negotiation skills.
Once the deal is complete, your escort will usually provide you a card, so you can call the next time you’re in the area to do some shopping. These escorts are obviously on commission, so they want you to continue to work with them. I suggest you take the card, and if they have not offered, ask them for one. It is helpful for 2 reasons: First, you don’t have to wait to be approached by someone, and go through the uncomfortable process of following a stranger to a strange place to view their merchandise. This is especially helpful if you are not with a large enough group to feel safe. Calling in advance, you can meet your escort, and have some level of comfort with who he is and where he is taking you. Secondly, you might on occasion have purchased a flawed item. The merchants are more than willing to exchange the defective item for you, but you have to know how to be able to reach them. I have heard of a couple of incidents where this has happened, and the merchants were very cooperative in taking the defective purchases back and allowing the customer to exchange it for something else. Just beware, as the return trip may cost you even more if you happen to see more things that catch your eye!