If you want to experience Dubai's rich commercial intercourse in all its polygonal variety, head down to Al Karama. All human life is there.
My brand-obsessed teenage children always put a trip to Karama's world-famous replica shops top of their list of things to do on a visit to Dubai, and usually come away laden with packages marked "Paul Smith" or "Mulberry". They're delighted, and so am I, having paid around a tenth of the going rate for these overrated baubles.
The quality varies, of course, but if you get to know the right shops, and make friends with the owners and vendors, you can ensure a reasonably good replica quality of some of the best-known brands in the world, at bargain prices.
I was there with my 14-year-old son last week. He loves the leather stuff, such as belts, wallets and computer bags. But most of all he loves the subterfuge.
Over the years I've become a good customer of one particular establishment, which offers a great range of replicas in virtually all the big brand names. But the shop (I won't name it for fear of being accused of favouritism) also has a "special" department, where you get the really good deals, and access to this is "by invitation only".
It involves a certain amount of cloak-and-dagger behaviour that just adds to the thrill for my boy, and I must admit gives me a kick, too.
The procedure is this: Ali, my friend in the regular store, asks if we'd like to see anything else, and we say we would. That's why we're there of course, and Ali knows that, but the protocol has to be observed.
"OK, meet me across the square and through the alley-way," he says conspiratorially. "A car will be there."
We cross the road and hang around in the arc of light from a street lamp, furtive glances over the shoulder to make sure we haven't been followed by any other bargain-seeking tourists, or anybody else.
Ali arrives in a battered Nissan, and we climb into the back.
On the way to the "special" shop, Ali is curious about my son's disability (he lost a hand as a baby) and we chat about that. Sometimes I find these kind of questions intrusive when coming from strangers, but Ali has become a friend by now, and he listens sympathetically.
Ali has a story too. Born in Afghanistan, his family fled as refugees to Iran at one stage of the Afghan conflict, where they carried on their retailing business in Shiraz. But they retained Afghan citizenship, and want to go back to Kabul "when there is peace", he says.
The shop in Dubai is an extension of the Shiraz business, but, I suspect, with a very different clientele and wares.
We arrive at the "special" shop, in a small room off an underground car park on the edge of Karama, and the smell of real leather hits you as soon as you walk in the door. My boy makes his selections, and we leave, with a bag full of replica designer boxes and a few glances for the sake of security.
The "special" shop is locked up tight, until the next "special" visitor.
Driving back through Karama's neon night-time, the pavements are crowded, traffic slow, and business good, says Ali. "People always want good replicas."
He tells a story that has become legendary among the shopkeepers of Karama. Some time back, a famous Swiss watch brand, known for its big-ticket classiness, was becoming increasingly angry at the trade being done in Dubai.
The replicas were becoming just too good, it seemed, and they dispatched a couple of investigators from Zurich to remind the Dubai authorities of their responsibilities. "Replica" is fine; counterfeit, of course, is illegal.
Two burly Swiss hard men had a meeting with a senior official from Dubai Customs, where they ranted about the controversial trade in watches that bore their very expensive brand name.
Voices were raised, tables were thumped. "You have to put a stop to it," they shouted at the official.
Very slowly, hoping neither of the Swiss would notice, he put his right hand over his left wrist, and pulled down the cuff of his kandura to conceal his own timepiece.