We were somewhat bewildered as to why our first attempt at formal entertaining was a monumental flop, especially as I believed that I was a good cook and hostess. Ah, but that was in leafy Surrey not in this far away desert Kingdom where available ingredients left a lot to be desired, together with a Cook who didn’t know one end of a wooden spoon from another and me, the hostess flapping around like a demented dervish
Not the most ideal of recipes for a flawless dinner party, no wonder I feel as if I have just presided over the dinner party from hell!
I was able to put this disastrous episode behind me as the Summer wives were beginning to return and I was being swept up by these ‘gals’ who were all seasoned Ex-Pat wives, par excellence.
I was soon being shown the ropes and at long last was introduced to the wondrous Souks that nestled along side the Creek, included in Tennis and Swimming parties and also introduced to Friday picnics up the Coast at a little fishing village called Ajman. It was a question of making the best that was on offer and these girls knew how to do this in spades, mind you they had had a lot of practice.
My first sortie was to the Gold Souk what an amazing experience, to this day I still marvel that such a place exists in the whole wide World – The Souk was actually a narrow road heading off from the creek crammed with tiny shops on both sides all selling gold jewelry –
The shop windows were festooned from top to toe with gaudy gold that looked as if it would have been more at home in a Christmas cracker, very yellow and bright. I discovered that this was because it was 22 or even 24 carat, and adored by the Arabs and Indians normally being bought as part of dowry’s for their weddings, the designs and color were definitely not understated but that was how they liked it, if you can afford it flaunt it, that’s what I say.
I digress, walking down this narrow road, jostling for space with donkeys being led by their masters, packed to the gunnels with goods. Maybe exotic spices that had probably just been unloaded from a Dhow which had recently sailed in from as far away as Zanzibar or fruits from East Africa. Being utterly mesmerized by the sight, sounds and smell of this place was the moment that my love affair began, not only with Arabia but with Gold! A love affair that has stood the test of time!
It was hard not to be seduced by the amazement of this street maybe there were fifty little shops or dukkas as they were known locally, with the owners all vying for the same custom and all selling identical pieces of jewelry. How could they all survive, competition was obviously fierce. Everywhere one looked there was gold twinkling in the shop windows one almost needed sunglasses because it was so dazzling? It really was hard to appreciate that so much wealth was crammed into this understated street, Bond Street it was not, but oh the atmosphere was unrivaled.
I discovered that nearly all the Jewelers were from either Jordan or Syria, they being very astute business people and I expect that they all slept in their shops on a little mezzanine floor at the back, their home away from home. On reflection these shops hardly every closed except for Friday morning prayers, no doubt they prayed that there would be plenty of business that evening, as Friday is a holiday in all Muslim countries.
This first visit was like the opening of Pandora’s Box, albeit it a golden box, somehow it explained so much. In essence, this little street was Arabia in a nut shell with its toxic smell of exotic spices, the hustle and bustle of the coolies going about their business, either leading laden donkeys to their next destination or carrying a multitude of goods precariously balanced on their heads. The Chai boys offering sweet tea, and not least the Patrons trying to entice one into their shops to purchase some amazing piece of gaudy gold, costing a King’s ransom.
Needless to say the girls had found a way round the dilemma of desperately wanting a gold necklace but not up for the gaudy stuff.A very astute vendor was quick on the uptake and realized there was a market for more refined pieces, usually l8 carat, which were normally made in Italy that was when Damascus Jewelers was established as the best address in the Souk, a must for ladies that shop!
Naturally I couldn’t get back to tell Mike quickly enough where I had been, and that I had a great idea that he should come with me next time, I wonder why!! Subsequently, I spent many a happy hour bartering with, was it Ali or Mohammed, because out of all the streets and alleyways in Dubai this was the one place where dreams really did come true. Actually, I think it was Dubai’s answer to the Kingdom of Heaven!
I would love to receive some feed back from you ‘my readers’
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Essay l3 will be published on 24th June