DUBAI has a two-fold reputation: one as the business and trade hub of the Middle East and the other as a shopper's paradise. From a pin to an elephant, it is quite possible that both the inveterate and the casual shopper will find everything in between to suit both his taste and conform to his budget. So whether one is ready to splurge a five-figure amount at one go, or spread out a couple of hundred dollars on a more modest spree, there are all kinds of places to look for bargains. In the last couple of years, a spate of high-class shopping malls have sprung up in Dubai. These malls feature a variety of up-market boutiques and smaller more affordable shops. In these malls, travellers can buy all types of consumer goods without having to step outside. All the leading names in haute couture or even pret-a-porter clothes can be found in the malls. From the elaborately bedecked evening wear, favoured by Middle East women, to the more streamlined day-time executive outfits, from delectable lingerie to a range of casual wear and baby clothes, there are shops for everything. The men are not left out - certainly not with their increasing preoccupation with fashion dictates and styles. It is quite common to find men spending a long time debating over the choice of a shirt or tie. There are an equal number of 'shoppers' strolling through the shopping malls with no intention of buying, but just enjoying the displays or even a coffee in the cafes. These shopping centres are more than just a collection of shops. A couple of them have become part and parcel of a lifestyle. It is common to find crowds of teenagers meeting at any of the fast-food joints in the malls. During the summer months it beats strolling around in the scorching heat, which usually defeats the most compulsive of shoppers. But it is not just the malls which attract everyone's fancy. Equally crowded are the streets of Bur Dubai, mainly known for its textile shops, where one can buy almost any fabric known. If the streets in Bur Dubai are crowded during week days, it turns into a melee during the weekends. As the summer wanes, the social season picks up, so everyone is out shopping in an attempt to be the season's best-dressed person. Then there is the gold souq, without which no tourist's trip is complete. Invariably, most visitors to Dubai put the gold souq at the top of their lists. And no wonder. First-time visitors to this souq are either tongue-tied and goggle-eyed at the glittering display. At night, this area of Dubai resembles a golden fairyland, the displays twinkling in a tantalising fashion, a trap for those with a passion for trinkets. But shops are not just relegated to the shopping malls or any particular area in Dubai. In fact, the whole city is one thriving mall. It is just as easy to buy a T-shirt from a little shop in which there is space for only one customer at a time, or buy a pair of jeans from a plush shop where it might be considered impolite to bargain loudly. For bargaining is the name of the game. Those who do not bargain will probably be cheating the shopkeeper of the enjoyment he derives from this activity. Shopkeepers tell the customer the price and the bargain they are willing to offer. It is not uncommon to hear something like this: 'It is for 100 dirhams (about HK$220) but after discount, it is for 75 dirhams only. But if you are keen on driving a bargain still further, you might pick up the goods for 65 dirhams'.