Dubai's Fruit & Vegetable Market
If your precious SLR is spotted it may tip the haggling balance against you
After a decade of buying my produce at the presumably convenient grocery store or the uncannily accommodating corner store, I finally decided to make my way to the Fruit & Vegetable Market to see just what I was missing all these years. I've been noticing the street signs for so long on what is now called Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road but never actually turned off the highway to see what this place was all about.
The Fruit & Vegetable Market is an open air market that's peculiarly nestled between Dubai's Customs & Ports Authority and the emirate's largest used auto market - all in what is effectively called Ras Al Khor Industrial Area. There is no air conditioning at the market so it is best to go in the early morning or later in the afternoon if you want to beat the heat. Also, as with all outdoor activities in Dubai, the cooler months will definitely be best to visit, otherwise I imagine fruits would not be as fresh – I'm pretty sure that certain products such as berries, for example, cannot stand the summer heat which Dubai is renowned for. No one seemed to know exactly what the opening hours of the market are but I believe that it is open from very early in the day to cater to wholesale buyers and the like.
Even if you are visiting Dubai and aren't in the mood to shop for what amounts to produce in the end, this is a nice place to visit and fairly different from the new Dubai that is generally advertised to tourists and residents. It is a great experience that allows you to see a more genuine side of the city and a traditional form of trade. You will be able to buy a few individual pieces of produce, but people tend to go to this market to buy in bulk. Even if they don’t have a large family to feed, some folks go with friends and split the purchases among them.
If you are going by car, there is parking available just outside the market. Otherwise, another option is to park in the Union Co-op Supermarket's parking lot just across the street then cross over to the Fruit & Veg Market. When you arrive, you will most likely be approached by men with wheelbarrows who will follow you around to essentially trolley your purchases for a very reasonable fee of AED 10 in total (USD 2.75). The choice is yours to hire one or to forego this option in favour of the exercise that lies ahead. When it was all said and done, the whole loot cost us a fraction of what our neighbourhood grocery store would have charged - including the hired hand plus his generous tip (while not a must, it is well-deserved and highly appreciated). That said, it is best if you have a general idea of the price of goods at your local store as this will help you spot and appreciate good deals that you most certainly will encounter. It will help you decide what's worth buying after all. And don’t underestimate your wheelbarrow helper! He'll be able to let you know if you are over spending and where you can get the best deals. The one helping me nodded his head in polite disapproval whenever I forked over too much for certain items. I read his signals and eventually started looking for his consent, in a way to validate my victory each time I landed a deal. I was slightly unhinged in the beginning, but quickly learned to manouver with him tagging along for the ride. Surprisingly, one learns to haggle confidently after a short session at this market! Take your camera with you if you like – but if your precious SLR is spotted it may tip the haggling balance against you. So snap-happy customers consider yourselves forewarned.
Don’t buy the first items you see, and resist the temptation to buy from vendors who approach you in the parking lot. It might seem like they've got a good deal but the quality of their fruit might not match what you would see under the canopies in the market. Plus, the variety you might encounter could make you regret not waiting a short while longer. We purchased our plums from one of these vendors and although the price was very good (4 packs of plums for a mere AED 10), the quality of the fruit could have been better. However, they were the best quality you could get for that price, and we enjoyed every last bite of these mouth-watering bits of heaven. Make your way around the market and compare prices. Don’t be afraid to bargain or you could find yourself paying more than you should.
When you get home, make sure you sift through whatever you bought to throw out any rotten pieces. This is a good exercise when buying produce in bulk, and it prevents the other goods from spoiling. Also always make sure to clean your produce carefully prior to eating or prepping it. Plain old preventive cleaning makes more sense especially when produce has sat in exposed surroundings. Your belly will also thank you for it.
Here is what we bought and how much it cost us:
Broccoli – 3 pieces: AED 10
Strawberries – 3 packs: AED 10
Yellow plums – 4 packs: AED 10
Raspberries – 2 packs: AED 10
Pears – approx 2kg: AED 10
Papaya – 1 medium size: AED 10
Watermelon – 1 medium size: AED 9
Bananas – 12 large: AED 10
Oranges – 1 box (72 pieces): AED 33
Kiwis – approx 30 pieces: AED 20
Baby cucumbers – approx 4kg: AED 10
Potatoes – 2kg: AED 8
Corn – 10 small pieces: AED 8
Thai Mangoes – 8 pieces: AED 7
Black seedless grapes – approx 2kg: AED 10
Carrots – approx 2kg: AED 8
Cherry tomatoes – approx 1-1.5kg: AED 10
Helping hand (with his wheelbarrow) – AED 15 (expect to pay AED 10 for this service)
Grand total: A whopping AED 208!
Now ask yourself if it's worth picking your local produce store over the Fruit & Veg Market the next time you need to replenish your stocks. I think I've got it figured out.
Happy trails and safe shopping...