The Antique Museum
Location: Dubai, UAE
A small warning before we get to the “museum” part; by the end of this article you might have a strong urge to get a GPS, preferably one that gets you from your home to the depths of the Al Quoz area in Dubai, and at same time doubles up as your guide inside the wonderful world of chaos inside the warehouse parading as a museum.
This hidden gem for souvenirs is a 65,000 square foot warehouse located in the warehouse land that is Al Quoz, and it’s been at this location for the last 15 years. Depending on who you talk to, the place is either one of Dubai’s best kept secrets or a well-known hangout for trinket hunters. For me it’s the former, having lived in Dubai for six years and made it a mission for at least three of those to find and explore the less chic and shiny parts of Dubai—this is an exciting discovery. When I did finally hear about the Antique Museum through a friend and then Googled it, I was quite surprised that there were multiple references to this place all over cyber space—not only did people seem to know about this place, some had even managed to find it! This is no small feat by any standard; anyone who has tried to find a particular location within Al Quoz’s dense maze of streets, that are both strangely numbered and seriously lacking in landmarks, will testify to that.
Which brings me back to my point about the GPS, a gadget I acquired via a recent Blackberry phone upgrade; this was my chance to put it to the test. And oh how it was tested. Usually a GPS works best when you have a known address or satellite coordinates; sadly the Antique Museum has neither of these to be found anywhere, and I mean anywhere, in the GPS world anyway. Only through trial and error and multiple calls to the Antique Museum helpful office did I actually manage to get a direction that can be used to navigate to the location.
It’s important at this point to mention that the terms “antique” and “museum” are completely misleading, as this place is neither of these. It’s more a mix of warehouse, souk, Aladdin’s Cave, and novelty shop mixed into one. You cannot underestimate the sheer amount of ornaments and souvenirs covering almost every inch of floor and ceiling: there are statues, lamps, handicrafts, masks, bags, drums, sculptures, and in fact anything you can ever imagine a souvenir sanctuary to have. But what’s even better about the Antique Museum is that it is no homage to the treasure of Dubai or even the UAE (though there are plenty of items to represent this country); this place brings the world to you, with sections of items that represent Africa, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Nepal, and a variety of other countries.
Spread across four warehouses, jam-packed and with only narrow passages through millions of items, make sure you bring enough time, water, a fan and if you have a flashlight, that would be even better. Spending a couple of hours on my first trip there was just about enough to get a quick glimpse of the vast variety of items, on my second trip I got a better look but by no means saw it all. I highly recommend you plan to go a couple of times before you start spending—you’ll be surprised what you’ll see after getting over the overwhelming collection of items.
Most of the items at the Antique Museum are bar coded with a 50/50 chance of a price attached, so you know what your base price is, but keep in mind the prices are negotiable; bargain hard and you can walk away with a deal or two, and don’t let the layer of dust covering everything distract you when you get to the air conditioned billing desk (yes they have a very posh lounge area for the billing department!).
For me this is one Dubai discovery I want to share, with friends and visitors, more than a shopping destination; for me this is an escape, a place to wonder and immerse myself in other parts of the world.
Global Village, eat your heart out.
History: The Antique Museum is owned and run by the Fakih Group is also actively involved in charity. By shopping here you are guaranteed to do a good cause, they essential obtain their items direct from the manufacturers in the countries they operate and donate most of the profits back into these local communities. The group has around 13 tourist shops across Dubai where the items are sourced from the Antique Museum.
Telephone: +971 4 3479935
Opening Hours: Saturday-Thursday: 9am-8:30Pm, Friday: 9-11am and then 3:30-9pm
Location: Al Quoz 1, Street 12B (Off Street 19), nearest Landmark is Times Square Centre (street 8 which is behind the center leads on to street 19)