|Shopping Secrets of the Middle East.|
By Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Monday, 3rd September 2012
When it comes to looking for that statement holiday purchase – whether a trendy piece to add character to the home or a whimsical item of jewellery from that quaint boutique one happened to stumble across – shopping can be one of the best ways to make holiday highs last for years to come.
When it comes to knowing the best places to pick up that special something that reflects a city’s unique artisanal heritage (while avoiding the tourist trap tag), a hotel’s Concierge team can often act as the best guide to quirky shopping streets, hidden boutiques and artisanal enclaves.
Experts from Four Seasons properties across the Middle East share their top picks on where they would shop for something that’s sure to get people back home asking “Where did you get that?”
Shadi Suleman, Director of Rooms at Four Seasons Hotel Doha
Visitors can take home a personalized piece of Qatar’s most famous symbol – the pearl – from several local pearl vendors at Doha’s atmospheric Souq Waqif, or Heritage Village, known for its collection of traditional arts and craft vendors.
River pearls in all shapes and colours, from the regular white and ivory to fancy black, purple and pink pearls, are widely available and affordable and can be set in unique designs, both traditional and modern.
Those looking to pick up an entire outfit can also look for exotic and colourful embellished kaftans at Doha’s Riviera-style luxury development, The Pearl-Qatar.
Nour Kanaan, Concierge Supervisor at Four Seasons Hotel Beirut
There’s no shortage of avant-garde design in Beirut, from clothing to furniture, fashion accessories, jewellery, art and antiques.
The city’s intense past has transformed into a creatively charged present. Saifi Village, known as Quartier des Arts, lies just off Beirut’s Central District and is a great place to start. This elegant residential area hosts a wide variety of antique stores, artisan shops, upcoming designer ateliers and specialty boutiques against a charming backdrop of reconstructed and restored traditional architecture.
Two other districts make for an interesting morning of browsing and buying – Achrafieh sees shady thoroughfares lined with Ottoman and French colonial period architecture tastefully merge with ultra modern tower blocks to create one of the capital's most established and avant garde neighbourhoods. Hamra Street, once known as the Paris of the Middle East, is another must-visit for jewellery buffs.
Bargain hunters should head to Bourj Hammoud, where excellent deals can be made. Very good quality gold is also available in this area, or at Mar-Elias Street, a busy street towards the south of Beirut.
When it comes to quirky pieces to add to a home, Basta-Tahta is a great place to trawl for old frames, mirrors and all sorts of trinkets in a flea market-like atmosphere.
Tamer Kelany, Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence
Savvy shoppers looking for vintage treasures can check out the weekly market at Souq Al-Gomaa south of the Citadel. Everything from antique furniture to live stock is thrown together in one giant frenetic market, but the patient and persistent will find plenty of great bargains.
The Heliopolis Zamalek area is also home to some chic and trendy boutiques carrying quirky Arab-inspired pieces, accessories and jewellery embellished with tongue-in-cheek inscriptions, soft furnishings, colourful ceramics and more.
Haidy Louka, Chief Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza
While it may have its share of run-of-the-mill souvenirs, Khan El Khalili in Cairo is one of the oldest markets in the world and a must-visit for anyone who wants a true taste of the shopping souks of Old Cairo.
In between touristy staples like mini alabaster pyramids, sphinxes in snow globes and papyrus paintings, one really won’t have to look hard to find real gems – including high quality museum reproductions, Egyptian cotton products, alabaster and mother of pearl jewellery, candles, blown glass ornaments, traditional coffee sets, Egyptian leather and more.
Anyone keen on picking up interesting antiques and artwork can head to Zamalek, which is home to several quirky galleries. Those looking for traditional fabrics to incorporate into their homes or wardrobes can head to the Azhar area of the city, which has loads of great fabric finds.