Cities in the Middle East are full of souks (also known as souq). These markets offer you the chance to immerse yourself in the city’s local culture. The Gap Year Travel Guide selects five top picks.
Muttrah Souk, Oman
The vibrant and chaotic Muttrah Souk is the most famous and oldest Souk in Muscat city.
Tourists from all over the world descend on this souk, shopping for folk art, woollen carpets and clothing. Among the usual shops, there are a select couple selling a mixture of historic Indian and Omani artefacts. When in the area, avoid the Shiite settlement of Al-Lawataya who request visitors to keep out of the district.
Aleppo Souk, Syria
These souks in Syria’s second city reportedly stretch for a mammoth 10 miles.
The Great Bazaar, made up of thirty interlinked markets and khans, is the largest bazaar in the Middle East and its stalls are lined with clothing, fabrics, perfumes, ropes, threads and spices.
You can visit the Khan al-Nahaseen, the oldest continuously inhabited building in Aleppo and then head beyond the souks, climb up the ancient settlement and look out at the phenomenal views over the city.
Gold Souk, Dubai
If your haggling skills are up to scratch then you could end up leaving this luxurious spot with a golden bargain.
Dubai is known for relatively cheap gold and at this unique souk, you’ll be able to buy platinum, diamonds and occasionally silver. Consisting of over 300 retailers, trading almost exclusively in jewellery; some people estimate that approximately 10 tons of gold is present at any given time in the souk.
Old City, Jerusalem
Hidden inside the gated walls of Jerusalem’s Old City in Israel lies one of the most renowned souks in the Middle East.
This spot is steeped in history—the high detailed arches and ceilings of the souk date back to the Ottoman Empire that gave the Old City its current walls.
Whether you’re entering through the Christian, Armenian, Muslim or the Jewish Quarter, be prepared to enjoy a different and truly memorable souk experience.
Khan El-Khalili, Egypt
Egypt’s most famous souk Kahn el-Halili in Cairo is probably one of the oldest souks in the world with a history dating back to 1382.
When you arrive at the site, you’ll first see the remarkable Hussein mosque. Behind this lies the vibrant souk where you can get a great deal on art, perfumes and fabrics.
Such was the importance of this historic souk in ancient times, that it influenced trade routes from Asia to Europe.