they see me haulin’: what i bought in dubai’s shopping malls;

Dubai is not a place that does anything by halves, but even by those standards shopping is a thing that it takes very, very seriously indeed. The emirate boasts 72 shopping malls for a population of just under 2.5 million people (I thought it was closer to 80, but I’ll take Wikipedia’s word for it) – among which is Dubai Mall which, at 350,000 square metres and 1,200 shops, is the largest shopping mall in the world. Terrifyingly, my Uber driver on the way to the airport told me that they’re currently building an even bigger one in Jebel Ali.

Dubai Mall Aquarium

Yes, that is a three-storey aquarium. In the middle of a shopping centre.

With this in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I came home from Dubai with a suitcase heavier than I went out with (given my sister’s shopping list from Scotland). Not so! In my defence, I’m a sensible adult we didn’t hit Dubai Mall until the end of a half-day jeep tour of the emirate that MC had arranged for us on Christmas day, and which I’ll review in a later post. Exhausted, hungry and with a hangover I can only just now talk about now that I’m far enough away to not be arrested, I stood in a food court the size of the town I grew up in and just broke down and cried.

Dubai Malls - Sephora

With “shopping” second to “nap” in my list of must-dos, I cut my list of shops to visit to just one: my beloved Sephora (okay, by way of the Kate Spade shop I spotted at the top of the escalator). I’d done my homework and discovered that the beauty chain that is usually the highlight of my US trips has plenty of outlets in the UAE too, and since it had been a whole… three months… since my last visit it was a must-do. We weren’t sure we’d be able to find it as we glided down the escalator to the mall’s second floor – until we saw that the size of the store reflected the size of the mall itself.

Sephora UAE appears to stock all the same brands as its US counterparts, if unsurprisingly a little behind: for example, they only had the eyeshadow palette from the Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani collaboration (gutting, given that I flew out the day before the full collection arrived in UK shops!). To console myself, I instead picked up a Kat Von D Studded Kiss lipstick along with one of her legendary liquid liners.

Dubai Malls - Kat Von D Studded Kiss lipstick
Dubai Malls - Kat Von D and Marc Jacobs

I’m a huge fan of Marc Jacobs fragrances, so I was intrigued to discover that the label had a beauty line too. The Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner is apparently a bit of a cult product in Dubai, or so we were told – and since my sister was in the market for a new eyeliner she was easily convinced by the sales lady. The black liner she purchased went on far more intensely than what she normally wears, but by the end of our night out she was utterly in love with it – and broken-hearted to discover that she’d left the lid off it when she got home (gel-based pencils and the open air don’t mix, pals!). The pencils are also excellently named, which is why I couldn’t resist one of my own – the teal-coloured Ody(Sea).

Just before I flew out I read Lex’s excellently-timed post The Things You Need From Sephora and decided I also had to give the eye masks she raved about a try. These were so well-priced – even by Dubai standards – that we picked up a few: the anti-fatigue pomegranate mask perked us up for our night out after a long day, and I took Lex up on her tip to use the masks in-flight by popping the “revitalising” ginseng variety in my hand luggage. I’m kicking myself for not getting more of these, honestly.

Dubai malls - Sephora eye masks
Dubai Malls - Typo purchases

We did manage one more unplanned stop before we left the mall. I’m a sucker for a quirky stationery shop, and Australian chain Typo ticks every box and then some. Even better: it’s situated right at the exit from the mall to the “neighbouring” (I use this very loosely: it’s a 20 minute walk which involves four separate travelators) Metro stop. I talked myself out of all sorts of sparkly notebooks and folders I’d never get around to using, before MC and I each settled on the same glittery phone case and a set of paper lantern fairy lights. I wound her pink set around the rails on her balcony while she was at work on Sunday, and although mine will look far less exotic wherever I choose to hang them in my living room I know they’re going to look gorgeous.

Friday was our super-busy, Sistah Adventure Day, but we did manage one more mall trip – on Saturday morning, when it was MC’s turn to be hungover. Searching Google Maps for the nearest McDonalds (using Google Maps in Dubai is worth a whole post in itself, believe me) we ended up in Dubai Outlet Mall – and, although we didn’t intend to buy anything other than carbohydrates, couldn’t resist a peek in the Guess outlet. MC has a pink Guess handbag that she absolutely adores, which was the only thing stopping her buying up the entire shop – while I reinstated my tradition of buying an item of clothing to remind me of every place I visit when I found the gorgeous Riley polka dot skater dress for the UK equivalent of twenty. bloody. quid. So chuffed!

Dubai Malls - Guess dress
Dubai malls - Guess dress

Have you ever been shopping in Dubai? And how big is too big for a shopping mall??



  1. February 3, 2016 / 10:00 am


  2. February 5, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    Wow, you did pretty well there. I must admit that I feel pretty intimidated by a mall that’s *too* big. I like a reasonable amount of choice but not to be overwhelmed by it. Never been to Dubai but maybe one day..

    • February 5, 2016 / 5:39 pm

      I’ve just booked to go back for my sister’s birthday in April – I think I’m going to set aside a full day to see what Dubai Mall has to offer! Thanks for stopping by and commenting x

  3. February 5, 2016 / 6:01 pm

    I LOVE THAT DRESS! Also.. never big enough! hehe. Such a great haul! xx

    • February 5, 2016 / 7:07 pm

      Not gonna lie, I’m pretty damn pleased with it! x

  4. rachelle renée
    February 6, 2016 / 5:40 pm

    Despite my dislike for malls, I’d looove to explore all of the malls in Dubai (it’s been on my list of things to do)! That’s the best liquid eye liner you’ll ever buy!!!! I haven’t used my eye masks from there yet, glad you liked them! i can’t wait to read more about your visit!!!!

  5. haxell
    March 20, 2016 / 7:54 pm

    It’s often said that these days we have far too much choice even in the supermarkets and that people find it stressful. I’m inclined to agree since if you need to buy any major appliance the choice can be mindboggling. I think you did amazingly well on your shopping trip and good luck for when you go back. At least this time you know what to expect and might find it less stressful.

    Hazel Rea – @beachrambler

    • March 21, 2016 / 12:14 pm

      Next time I’m dedicating a whole day to the mall! Which sounds tragic, but shopping is my sunbathing on holiday 😉 x