Dubai is known as the 'City of Gold' and for good reason. The fastest growing gold centre in the world, Dubai imports on average 300 tons of gold annually from all the major manufacturing centres of the world.
The quality of Dubai's gold is famous, as is the impressive variety of stylish designs. Another reason for Dubai's successful gold industry is the free trade environment, which makes Dubai probably the cheapest place in the world to buy jewellery.
Dubai has had a long history with gold and jewellery, starting with its status as a major trading port in the 19th century. Dubai's famous Gold Souk, one of the largest retail gold markets in the world, started in the 1900's with just a handful of retailers. It grew substantially in the 1940's and 50's when it also got an ornate wooden covering. This was updated in the 70s with the rapid expansion brought on by the oil boom.
It has now grown to nearly 400 retail and wholesale units, including over 275 retailers; all this in an area of half a square kilometre. The Souk has been modernised, and shop displays are constantly being refurbished to adhere to international standards.
Despite the growth in size, the Souk remains a tantalising introduction to the Arabian world, with narrow alleys and traditional wooden archways, all set against hundreds of shops displaying tonnes of gold, diamonds and other precious gems.
In recent years, new gold shopping centres have also been built, including the sophisticated Gold and Diamond Park, New Gold Souk Center, Gold Land, Gold Centre and Gold House.
On an annual basis, Dubai imports 300 tonnes of gold for retail and wholesale; much of this is routed through Dubai to other GCC countries, as Dubai has become a regional hub for gold and jewellery trading. The approximate value of this trade is Dhs12 billion annually.