Abaya is a modest robe-like dress for ladies with a hijab scarf while the men would don dishdash and Keffiyeh on their heads. Sheila is another term for hijab scarf. Usually, it comes as a set with the abaya. For those who you like to visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi or Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai, every visitors are to don a modestly according to their strict dress code. So, most tourist would purchase their own Abaya due to hygiene purpose even though there are abaya for rentals (can be found at the entrane of the mosque).
There are two places that are reasonably price for Abayas, Naif Souk is where most tourists would shop for their cheap black abayas or Abu Hail Centre, where most locals would go for but slightly above average but the you will find the latest design abayas.
Abu Hail Centre
Let’s just say that Abu Hail Centre, it is like the Tanjong Katong Complex of Baju Kurung in Dubai where it only caters to abaya. In full honesty, every shops in the shopping centre are so overwhelming with different styles of it. But the second floor is my go-to. I was not able to find any men clothing, so I guess the main attraction is the ladies. I followed my instinct and take a full window shopping survey on all shops before selecting a preferred shop. For someone who only know basic arabic, it can be stressful reading the shop directory signs. So, I follow my instinct and head to one of the biggest shop, which called Swiss Ladies Fashion. It is located on the second floor, near the escalator.
With a nonchalant look, we braved the odds and take a look at the wide selection of abayas. Luckily, the male attendee is able to speak basic english. He recommend me a modern abaya that cost AED 550. I literally died on the inside, beautifully expensive. In addition, he said he can tailor/alter the abaya for free, on the spot! So I casually, flip through for more bargain abayas on the rack. The quality of the clothes are cooling, you can just tell from the intricate details when they tailor it that you can never find back at home. I managed to purchase 3 black abayas with unique details for AED 620. Since I have selected an open abaya, I request to close the seams for more modesty. But I refuse to alter the length which can easily be done at home. I mentally note that I had to head to Naif Souk the next day for more bargain price.
Tip: Have a specific budget in mind. The cheapest I found is AED 200. Do not tailor the dress unless you plan to purchase for yourself.
The following day, we went to Naif Souk in hopes for better bargain. We hailed a cab from Baniyas station to save time. We stepped into the beige building and we are surrounded by rows of abaya shops. Some shop attendees mostly Pakistani touting us to their shops. “Malaysia, come come. Jubah Abaya Chantik Chantik“. We just go with the flow and pretend to be our neighbour counterparts, just for the bargain sake. Haha! The first floor covers rows of abaya while the shop stands sell different cosmetics dupe (from Kylie Cosmetics lip kit to Huda Beauty) and hijab accessories while the second floor sells a casual home clothes with some random negligee and the men section.
It is another overwhelming session when these men touting you to take a look in their shops. We took our time and tour around to find unique abaya. The cheapest we found is AED60 with tailoring cost of AED 10 for 10-15 minutes services. I managed to grab 4 coloured Abayas with total cost of AED300.
There are only 2 shops that cater to men. We stepped into Abdul Quyum’s shop on the second floor and purchased quite a handful Kandura thobe that comes with a long tassel called tarboosh. This removable tassel symbolises a traditional Emirati thobe for men that sets apart from other Gulf fashion, according to shop owner. The cheapest Kandura without the tassel cost about AED 25. The traditional emirati thobe costs about AED 80 that comes with other shades of colours besides white. Children thobe would cost AED20 each. Adult sizes would range between 52 to 62. This is based on the length of the thobe and not how big it is because modest arab bedouin fashion. The quality is better and cooling as compared to back home.
Tip: Do haggle your price for bargain
To return, we found a metro sign (350m) from Naif Souk indicating that the metro is nearby. Since there are heavy traffic, we decided to walked towards the station. Along the main street, we found out that there are some illegal soliciting activities going on like red light district areas and imitation black market goods. We kept walking and follow the crowds while keeping watchful eye. There are local policemen patrolling street once we reach near the metro station. So we are safe.
If you are looking for a basic abaya, Naif Souk is your go-to. Overall, the abayas are relatively cheaper with good quality than those you find at the shopping malls or stands. I would highly recommend these two places. Click here and here for more Abaya shopping recommendations
How to go Abu Hail Centre?
Alight at the Abu Hail metro station and walk towards Abu Hail Centre for 6 minutes (timing may vary based on walking speed). It is located on left side of exit. Take the bridge to cross the shopping centre. It closes at 11pm. Masjid Khalifa bin Sultan Mosque is conveniently located beside the building when you exit the car park on level 1.
How to go Naif Souk?
Nevertheless those who prefer Naif Souk, the nearest metro is Bayinas Square metro station. A 7-10 minutes walk from the station to the souk (timing may vary based on walking speed). On exit, cross the road and walk straight towards 27th street. Turn right on Deira Street. You will find Naif Souk building. Al Ghurair Mosque is conveniently located beside the building when you exit on level 1.
I recommend to hail for a taxi after you alight from the train because it can be overwhelming and walk back to the metro after your shopping. The streets can be crowded after 5pm. It costs us AED 10 for a short 5 minutes ride from the station. Do not take any ride offer from strangers near the streets. They are not legit taxi drivers.
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