From gold bars to cupcakes…

The vending machine, as a format for buying stuff, has pretty much spent its entire existence as a desperation snack stop. Insert coins, push buttons and select your dubiously nutritional food item.

But the UAE looked beyond that reflective image in the glass. It shook the concept of vending machines so enthusiastically, that what dropped down into the grab bin below were ideas of truly ‘extra’ proportions. These are just a few of our favourites.

Myriam K


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by What’s On Dubai (@whatsondubai)

Because you’re worth it. Found in Merex leisure treasure, City Walk this K Beauty haircare vending machine is on hand to solve even the most turpitudinous bad hair days. Need some extra volume mid-shopping spree? Step right up folks, Myriam K’s vending machine has got the tonic for your barnet, the biz for your frizz and the detox for your locks. There are scrunchies, hair masks, golden brushes and all the elixirs to give you a fuller, thicker, healthy and slicker mop on top.

Bike Helmet vending machines


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Careem UAE (@careemuae)

Safety first. Did you know it’s now mandatory to wear a helmet if you’re cycling in Dubai? Get caught without one and you could face a fine. The financial sting, however, could turn out to be dramatically less than the very real pain if you end up in an accident. With the popularity of the Careem Bike product now *ahem* riding high in the city – the company is dedicated to ensuring people can do it safely, with these bike helmet vending machines strategically placed at certain Bike docking stations around Dubai.

Ice Cream

IceAlice is a robotic ice cream-making installation currently serving scoops in multiple locations across the UAE, including Global Village. The company behind it, VLT Robotics, also makes automated machines that can serve bespoke coffee creations (there’s one in Riverland and another at the Dubai Frame). This delegation of menial work is probably the sort of thing we’ll come to regret when the AI singularity eventually takes over the reins of the simulation – but for now, put another Flake in it please Alice.

Gold Bars

We feel like this might be Dubai’s spirit vending machine. Yes, thanks to the novelty Gold to Go ATMs you’ll never be caught without casual bullion again. These machines allow you to buy anything from a 2.5-gram, 24-karat gold coin to a wasta flex one-ounce gold bar. There’s even an internal computer capable of updating the prices every 10 minutes to reflect realtime fluctuations in the market.

At one stage there were multiple machines across the UAE from Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi to the Observation Deck of the Burj Khalifa. We know at least one unit remains in Atlantis The Palm.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cup Cake ATM 24/7 (@cupcake_atm)

Cup Cake ATM is essentially a luxe vending machine that gives you access to Instalicious muffins 24 hours a day, and that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to us. You’ll find this first UAE location at Marsana, on Hudayriyat Island’s Leisure and Entertainment District. In terms of variety, you really can have your cake and eat it, which is only fair. The pistachio and Nutella cake definitely has some big UAE energy (although not ideal for those with nut allergies) about it; there’s an Oreo cookie cupcake; a safron variety; Lotus cupcakes (because of course); blueberry; red velvet; carrot cupcakes; and more.

If, like Joseph Jonas, you fancy some cake by the ocean — it’s yours from as little as Dhs19 (for the Oreo cake). The pricier options, safron and pistachio Nutella, are only fractionally more at Dhs21. @cupcake_atm


One finds this vending machine in the location one might expect to find this vending machine, at Dubai Opera of course darling *readjusts monocle*. A bit parched midway through the matinee? No problem, exit stage right for some mini bottle popping bubbly fun. The machine serves up precision chilled bottles of a certain well known premium brand of bubbles for around Dhs140. At that price, it’s unlikely to be the cheapest bottle of pop you’ll have dropped from a vend, but we all have to make sacrifices for the ‘gram right?

Dubai Opera, Downtown, Tel: (04) 440 8888, @dubaiopera

Beauty products – (Gone)

Full ‘fession — we searched high and low for this slap-contraption at its alleged Sunset Mall location but we couldn’t find the Huda Beauty cosmetics vending machine. Possibly because it’s not there anymore. Possibly because of our dad level ‘looking for things’ skills. But when it first landed back in 2015, it was catching all the headlines for letting you pick up faddish beauty trends on the go (2015 was peak massive-surprised-face-eyebrows if we remember correctly), and presumably not dropping powder palettes from any great height. @hudabeauty.

Laptops – (definitely gone)

Originally Located inside Sharaf DG’s flagship store at Times Square Centre, but now retired, this vending machine was one of the largest in the world, stocked with laptops, tablets, cameras and phones. Items were dispensed and handed to the customer using a robotic arm and you could walk away with a shiny, new computer in less than a minute. Sadly it looks like this was one step of vending innovation the world just wasn’t ready to take. We clearly still collectively value the advice of those super keen shop floor sales clerks when we’re dropping a couple of thousand dirhams on electronic items.

Sharaf DG, Times Square Centre, Dubai, Tel: (600) 502 034, @sharafdgonline

Images: What’s On Archive/GoldToGo Instagram