arabian souvenirs

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Historically, Abu Dhabi's ancient desert culture meant possessions had to be practical and easily transportable for many kilometres through challenging terrain. Genuine traditional items, such as wooden chests, can be very expensive and increasingly difficult to find, although 'antique' copies are widely available. 

Traditional wooden doors are also beautiful and popular and can be hung as works of art or transformed into furniture, usually tables with glass tops, although headboards are also a wonderful way to upcycle these gorgeous pieces. Many outlets that sell these large items can arrange for shipping if you live outside of the UAE. 

Other items with a local theme include the Arabian coffee pot (dallah) and cups, which are a symbol of warm local hospitality; prayer beads in a multitude of colours; and wood carvings in the form of dhows (traditional wooden boats), falconry equipment, and canes traditionally used in elaborate Emirati dances such as the Al Ayyala. Ancient looking rifles, muzzle-loading guns and the functional yet decorative khanjar (a short, curved dagger in an elaborately wrought sheath) are also popular buys. If you intend to buy these, check with your airline on the procedures for transporting them.

Things to buy

Traditional wedding jewellery, made of heavy silver or gold crafted into necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, makes for stunning gifts or mementoes.

This historic art form is perfectly immortalised when mounted into box frames, which you can have done at a selection of framing shops in Abu Dhabi city, if you like.

Dried resin from the frankincense tree of southern Oman, once more valuable than gold, has been traded in the region for centuries. This ancient and aromatic resin is still sold today, often as an incense kit with a small wooden chest and charcoal burner, making for a great gift for family or friends.

The ghutra headscarf, the distinctive white garment that is worn traditionally by men in the Middle East, has become a popular fashion accessory worldwide. You will find a huge range of ghutra in Abu Dhabi's souks (markets) and malls. Aside from the standard white version, they also come in a multitude of different colours and patterns, including chequered red and white.